Researchers Say Dogs May Make Children Healthier

August 17, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. infant (n.)
[in-fuhnt] – a baby or a very young child
Example: The infant in the photo was my sister when she was two months old.

2. wheeze (v.) [hweez, weez] – to produce a loud noise while breathing
Example: She started to wheeze after climbing the stairs to reach the tenth floor.

3. contract (v.) [kuhn-trakt] – to catch a disease or to get sick with a virus
Example: They clean the baby’s bed frequently so the baby will not contract any disease.

4. susceptible (adj.) [suh-sep-tuh-buhl] – likely to get  sick
Example: Children who do not eat fruits and vegetables are susceptible to illnesses.

5. respiratory (adj.) [res-per-uh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee,ri-spahyuhr-uh-] – involving the nose, lungs or other parts of the body used when breathing
Example: Common respiratory illnesses are cough, colds and asthma.

Read the text below.

A study published in the Pediatrics journal suggests that having pet dogs around might help protect children from illnesses.

Researchers in Kuopio University Hospital in Finland studied 397 infants born in the facility between September 2002 and May 2005. Researchers asked parents to start writing a weekly diary of their babies’ health and contact with cats and dogs when the babies turn nine weeks old.

The data revealed that 35% of the families had a dog and 24% had a cat. In addition, the report found that before the age of one, 335 babies had a cough, 285 got sick with fever, 284 had colds, 189 needed to take antibiotics, and 128 of them wheezed.

Children in families with dogs experienced fewer weeks of sickness than those whose families had cats. The study also showed that babies not exposed to dogs were healthy 65% of the time, while those who were often near dogs were healthy for 72% to 76% of the time.

Furthermore, infants in contact with dogs had a 44% less chance of contracting inner ear infections and were 29% less likely to need antibiotics. Overall, infants who spent one to six hours each day with dogs had less chances of being sick.

Eija Bergroth, the study’s main author, says babies who spend their first year of life near dogs become less susceptible to respiratory illnesses. The researchers believe dogs bring dirt and germs from outside, which strengthen babies’ immune systems.

However, Bergroth admitted children in dog-owning families may be healthier because of other reasons and not just because of pets.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         What do you think is the significance of this study?
·         Do you believe parents should introduce their child to animals early in the child’s life? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         Why do you think some people keep animals as pets?
·         What do you think are some risks or dangers in having animals at home?

August 17, 2012