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Babies and pets
Your baby becomes more able to interact with his surroundings every day. If you have dogs, cats, or other pets at home, take steps now to keep your baby safe and your pet adjusted to having a baby in the house. Keep a close eye on your baby and pet when they interact; even pets that seemed to have accepted the baby may change their tune when the baby begins to crawl and grab. Curious babies and toddlers can annoy the most patient pet to the point that the animal bites or scratches. Teach your baby how to be gentle right from the start, and never leave your pet and baby alone together.
Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date; unvaccinated pets can pose a health risk to the entire family. Do not keep reptiles, including turtles, as pets; many carry salmonella, which can be fatal for infants. Even those favorite pets of childhood, guinea pigs and hamsters, can carry harmful bacteria. If you have one in the house, be sure that everyone washes their hands after playing with it and before holding the baby.
Pets, dust, and allergies
Recent research suggests that daily exposure to cats in the first year of life may protect a child from developing allergies. In one study, babies whose families owned a cat that was allowed in the baby’s bedroom were 67% less likely than others to develop asthma and 45% less likely to develop hay fever. Another study looked at children whose parents had a history of asthma or allergies. Children exposed to higher levels of house dust had less eczema in the first year of life. Exposure to a dog in the home at 2 to 3 months of age was also linked to less eczema in the first year of life. Other studies suggest that some level of exposure to common germs and dust may protect children from developing allergies, eczema, and asthma. So try not to worry too much about keeping a healthy baby’s environment sterile and germ-free. A little exposure to the world—cats, dogs, dust, and all—seems to play a role in building a strong immune system.