A baby plays with the dog on the lawn.

A baby plays with the dog on the lawn. Credit: iStock

I can’t remember how often Harrison got sick when he was a baby, but I can remember the day when he broke out into pink blotches all over his face.

He was 7 months old, and we were touring a home we were interested in buying. A dog lived in the house, it turned out. An allergy test would soon confirm that Harrison is allergic not only to dogs but cats, too.

That moment came to the front of my mind when I read about a new Finnish study in the journal Pediatrics that found children who have been exposed to dogs have fewer respiratory tract infections the first year of their lives. The idea is that dogs might help children build up better immune systems.

Those children in the study who had contact with dogs didn't need antibiotics as much as others and had less ear infections, coughing, rhinitis, wheezing and fevers. 

"Cat ownership seemed to also have an overall protective effect, although weaker than dog ownership," according to the article.

Infants with dogs who lived outside part of the time seemed to benefit the most. "A possible explanation for this interesting finding might be that the amount of dirt brought inside the home by dogs could be higher," the scientists found, suggesting further study.

Read the full article here.