Since Mother’s Day was yesterday, today let’s talk about an important medical study that parents need to be aware of.
You’ve probably heard that exposure to dirt in childhood is an essential part of boosting immunity and decreasing future allergies…
…but did you know the same is true for animals?
Early exposure to dogs and farm animals (during the first year of life) statistically significantly decreased the development of asthma in children 5+ years later.
Published on November 2, 2015 in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers found that exposure to animals decreases future development of asthma, a very important finding because the worldwide incidence of childhood asthma is steadily increasing.
- Researchers looked at data from over 1 MILLION children born in Sweden from 2001 to 2010 — following over a million children for a decade.
- They followed children from birth and tracked their early childhood exposure (or non-exposure) to dogs and farm animals during the first year of life, their asthma diagnosis and medication, and parental history of asthma.
- Over 55,000 children were found to have had exposure to animals during their first year of life, and this factor alone decreased their subsequent risk of developing asthma into their school aged years.
- Having a dog as a pet during early childhood reduced the incidence of asthma diagnosis by 10% by the time the children were 3 years old and up to 13% by 7 years old.
- Living on a farm went even further… decreasing the childhood rate of asthma by the time the children were 7 years old by over 52%!
- Being exposed routinely to animals throughout early childhood (as opposed to simply visiting a farm but not owning any of your own animals in as a family) was capable of slashing the rate of asthma in HALF.
- These results remained unchanged when the researchers adjusted for parental age, presence of siblings, number of parents with asthma, parents’ income, parents’ educational level, and parents’ birth country.
This is important information for parents to be aware of, so that they can understand the appropriateness of having their children around animals and pets and that the timing of this is important — during the first year of life.
I have found that not only are animals good for the body from a medical perspective by decreasing asthmatic responses in the body later in childhood, but also getting children up, outdoors, and active.
As I blog about here, sitting for extended periods of time (like in a school setting!) is unfortunately the worst thing you can do for your body…
…and getting up and active, such as walking a dog daily, is one of the best things you can do to encourage a long healthy life habit in your child.
Walking a dog every day is so healing, so healthy, that it is as effective in cancer recovery as any chemotherapeutic agent known to mankind to date!
And well beyond the medicinal benefits of animal exposure in early childhood, having pets:
- gives children a very healthy exposure to unconditional love
- provides stability and continuity during times of unavoidable stress in the child’s life (such as during a move to a new home, entering a new school, or a change in the family dynamics such as a death or divorce)
- and gives a framework to talk about holistic and important topics such as death (as inevitably pets have a shorter life span than humans and often the death of a pet is a very healthy introduction to speaking about death before it pertains to a human family member such as the loss of a grandparent) and reproduction (my kids saw many a baby being born by their guinea pigs, rabbits, and chickens, held special pets as they grew old and died in their arms, and even hand bottle fed baby birds and helped house train all their puppies! Loving and caring for a special pet is a priceless, priceless gift during childhood.)
I talk more about how to address critical spiritual and health related issues with young children such as our innate ability to heal, how to maintain resiliency in the face of illness, and the eternal nature of the soul…
…alongside dozens of other ideas for holistic healthy habits to introduce your child to for a lifetime of well being (such as good sleep hygiene and a daily habit of grounding!) in my healthy parenting guide, found here.
So all in all, the benefits of pets for children?
1. Decreased risk of asthma in children, as shown in today’s article
2. Healthy childhood model for unconditional love, as well as healthy exposure to natural life rhythms like birth and death (for tons of heart centered parenting ideas to support your child’s health, download my parenting guide right here)
3. Enhanced sleep (for more ideas, I’ve written a children’s book about sleep which you can find here)
4. Walking a pet increases lifespan (as I blog about here) and even enhances cancer recovery (read this blog post for more details.)
Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all you wonderful mamas out there loving your children near and far every single day.
And to my own mother, who I am incredible grateful for.
I love you Mom!!!!!