Children who spend the first year of their lives with five or more pets face the lowest risk – because the bugs animals carry help build up immunity. Picture: Pixabay

London - It's always been fun for children to play with Fido. But now experts have said family pets can protect youngsters from suffering asthma and hayfever.

Every dog or cat in the house reduces a child’s chances of getting an allergic disease by a fifth, a study found.

Children who spend the first year of their lives with five or more pets face the lowest risk – because the bugs animals carry help build up immunity.

Scientists claim a large number of pets may have a ‘mini-farm’ effect, as children who grow up close to cattle also tend to have a lower risk of allergic conditions. 

The microbes found on animals are believed to trigger an infant’s immune system. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied 1 200 children aged seven to nine, recording how many pets they had in their first year of life and whether they suffered asthma, eczema or hayfever.

The results showed children with no pets had a 49 percent higher risk of these conditions, suggesting animals in the house could protect them.

Research leader Dr Bill Hesselmar said the findings showed "cats and dogs protect against allergy development".

Daily Mail