This content has been clinically reviewed by Deirdre Stewart, M.D.
Kids and pets go together like peanut butter and jelly. But many new parents put off getting a dog or cat because of worries about allergies and asthma, as well as other safety concerns.
Worry not though, because studies suggest that a family pet may actually be good for your child's health.
Recent research has indicated that newborns who live with dogs or cats are less likely to develop pet allergies and asthma when they get older. Being around pets may also lower an infant’s risk of coughs and sniffles during the first year of life.
This research comes from a study published in JAMA Pediatrics in 2015 that showed that children who had a dog in the house in the first year of life were 13 percent less likely to develop asthma by the time they were 6 years old than those from dog-free homes. Additional studies have similar findings regarding newborn exposure to dogs and feline friends in reducing asthma risk.
More good news: the study—which used data from a Swedish registry of more than 1 million children—also found that children growing up on farms with animals had a 50 percent reduction in their risk of asthma at school age.
A recent review article that examined a large number of studies also found evidence that in newborns with no family history of allergy, those exposed to dogs in infancy may be less likely to develop allergies down the road.
The key here, though, is timing—household pets had to be under the same roof while the child was an infant for the reduced risk of allergies and asthma.