Children who live with pets when they are infants are less likely to develop allergies and other diseases later in childhood, a Swedish study found.
The study sought to learn about the possible benefits of germ exposure to infants living with pets in their home.
For the study, the researchers from the University of Gothenburg included 1029 children who were either seven or eight years old.
In the first experiment, findings, published on the open access site, 'PLOS ONE', the researchers found that the incidence of allergies (which in this study included asthma, eczema, hay fever and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis) was 49 per cent for children who had not been exposed to pets as infants.
The number fell to 43 percent for children who had lived with a single pet as an infant and to 24 per cent for children who had lived with three pets.
In another experiment, which included 249 children, it showed that the allergy rate for children growing up without a pet was 48 percent, 35 percent for children with one pet and just 21 percent for children who had grown up with multiple pets.
Taken together, the two datasets showed that the more exposure infants have to pets, the less likely they are to develop allergies later in life, the team concluded.