If you want to keep your kids from developing allergies...get a pet!

Multiple studies show that the risk of many common allergies is greatly reduced in children who grow up with dogs and cats in their home.

One study from the National Institues of Health followed kids from birth to age 7 and found that their risk of suffering from allergies was reduced by up to 50% in pet-owning households. And these dog or cat-owning children also had far fewer allergic reactions to dust mites, ragweed, and grass!

Dr. Dennis Ownby, chief of the Medical College of Allergy and Immunology (Georgia Section) says that when kids play with a cat or dog and get licked, it transfers bacteria that could help your child's immune system respond to help protect against allergies.

Other research shows that having a cat or dog exposes children to more infections early in life. This is GOOD NEWS because that kind of exposure boosts your child's immune system and keeps pet-owning children healtheir than their peers with no pets.

In addition to the psycical health benefits, pet ownership for children offers many positive cognitive and emotional experiences. Wonderful life lessons can result from owning a pet, like how much fun a playmate can be, how to share mom and dad's attention with a new sibling, and how to deal with the loss of a family member.

Pet ownership can also help kids develop responsibility and discipline. Children will learn how and when to feed their pet, take their pet outside, clean or groom their pet, or take their pet for shots and check-ups...helping them to become mature adults.

Pets can be the first friend for a young child and provide a strong level of camaraderie and mututal respect. Positive relationships with pets lead to the development of trusting and respectful relationships with other humans. And the development of non-verbal communication skills cannot be overlooked.

A child who realizes that another creature's survival depends on him builds a sense of awareness, belonging, and self-esteem

Pets can also help the family do things together like taking the dog for walks or to a park, brushing the cat, going to the pet store, celebrating your pet's birthday or letting the kids pick out special gifts for their pet for the holidays since the pet is part of the family.

Of course if your child is allergic to pets or dander and that exposure is an asthma trigger you should follow your doctor's advice. But some children with asthma are not allergic to animals and can live with a pet because their allergies are triggered by something else entirely. Children with asthma can be given a skin or blood test to see exactly which triggers are most important to avoid.

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