Having Ponies May Lower Children’s Risk of Asthma, Study Says

Exposing children to horses may lower their risk of asthma.Alexia_Khrushcheva/iStock/Thinkstock

If you’re considering getting a pony for your child, a recent Swedish study may help you decide. The study says that babies and toddlers exposed to dogs and farm animals, such as horses, “may be less likely to develop asthma by the age of 6,” Newsweek reports. The researchers looked at 276,000 school-age children. Of those, 950 of them had at least one parent who worked with farm animals and 22,000 of them had parents with dogs during their first year of life. The team discovered that when infants were exposed to dogs they were 13 percent less likely to develop asthma when they got older. A 52 percent reduction in asthma risk was linked to infants and toddlers who were exposed to farm animals. Besides lowering the risk of asthma for school-age children, researchers concluded that exposure to dogs and farm animals also decreased the risk for preschoolers. For this age group, 10 percent were less likely to develop asthma if they had dogs and 21 percent were less likely if they had farm animals (yay for horses!).

It is important to note, however, that the findings of the study do not prove that dogs and horses prevent asthma. Instead, they suggest that fears expectant parents have regarding their babies’ health if they’re around these animals could be set aside.

“To let children have a pet in their home is likely to enrich the family life in many ways, and perhaps also enriches the child’s microbiome and immune system,” Tove Fall of Uppsala University in Sweden and lead author  of the study said in an email to Newsweek.

Well, if that’s not telling parents to get a pony, I’m not sure what is. OK, so that’s not exactly what the study says. In fact, there are some shortcomings in the study, Newsweek reports. These included “a lack of data on allergies in the family and a potential undercount of the number of households with dogs…, [lack of] data on exposure to dogs or farm animals outside the home, and on cases when exposure to animals may have stopped after the start of the study. The study also wasn’t designed to pinpoint why the animals might be linked to a reduced asthma risk.”

The possibilities include exposure to dirt and pet dander, time spent outside, exposure to bacteria that children without these animals wouldn’t be exposed to and less indoor allergen exposure.

Even though the study lacks some information, I still think it’s an excuse to get a pony. What do you think?




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