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JoAnna Lou
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Developing a Healthy Immune System
Study finds that babies in dog homes get sick less often
My godson samples Nemo's chew toy. He must have a strong immune system!

I have friends on both sides of the parenting spectrum. Some won't let me in the door without slathering my hands in antibacterial gel, while others are okay with their kids teething on my dogs' Kongs.

There isn't one right way to raise children (human or canine!), but it turns out that a little bit of dirt and fur may be a good thing.

A recent study at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland found that babies who live with a dog are healthier and less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. Kids from homes without animals were healthy for 65 percent of their first year, compared with 72 to 76 percent for babies in dog homes.

The kids in pet families were also 44 percent less likely to get inner ear infections and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics. The study found a similar correlation between infants and families with cats, but to a lesser extent.

The researchers believe that dirt and allergens introduced by animals may cause a child's immune system to mature faster.

Our pets hold a special place in our family and now we know they may also play an important role in developing our kids' immune systems.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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