— Not only cute, but good for you too?
Pets can protect their young owners against common stomach bugs, according to new research.
Jane Heyworth at the University of Western Australia in Crawley, and colleagues found that incidences of gastroenteritis commonly called stomach flu were significantly lower in young children living in homes with pets, than those living without.
For six weeks, the team closely observed 965 children aged four to six, noting incidences of nausea, diarrhoea, and vomiting. Children that had a cat or dog in their household were 30% less likely to have gastroenteritis symptoms than children who lived in homes without pets.
It is a commonly held view that dogs and cats are a source of gastroenteritis, but our results do not support that, Heyworth says. Being licked and touched by pets may allow children to develop immunity from repeated low level exposure of pathogenic organisms, she suggests.
Previous studies have shown that people who keep pets suffer fewer health problems, such as heart disease and depression.
Journal reference: Epidemiology and Infection (vol 134, p 926)