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  • Mmmmhhhh, puppies! Most dog-owners say companionship is the number one reason to have a cuddly,

  • devoted tail-wagger, and some people also have dogs for assistance or protection. And

  • just look at them! They're so cute! So it's not surprising that we're willing to put up

  • with less-savory features of dogs, like muddy paw-prints and slobber all over everything.

  • Yet slobber and other pet dirt may actually be a pet benefit too, especially if you happen

  • to be an unborn baby.

  • Dogs - and also cats - influence the microbial/bacterial communities in our homes so much that if your

  • mother lives with a dog or cat while she's pregnant with you, you're about 30% less likely

  • to suffer from allergies as a child.

  • This sounds kind of crazy, and we don't know exactly why it happens - but the most likely

  • explanation is called the "hygiene hypothesis."

  • You know how children from Amish farm families have been found to suffer less from allergies

  • and asthma than is typical in the modern westernized world? Well, scientists think it's because

  • their immune systems develop more fully thanks to exposure to a wide variety of dirt, bacteria,

  • and germs in fermenting feed, cow manure, and other barnyard delights.

  • A key part of your immune system is the cells that recognize and neutralize foreign bacteria,

  • viruses, transplanted body parts or even your own damaged cells. Healthy cells in your body

  • have distinctive proteins on them that immune cells recognize as part of 'you', while intruders

  • and unhealthy cells without 'you' proteins are flagged for careful monitoring. If any

  • 'not-you' stuff starts causing too much harm, your immune cells will attack it and take

  • note to act quickly and vigorously against it in the future - basically, learning who's

  • harmlessly passing through, and who's a dangerous intruder.

  • But if the immune system incorrectly identifies an intruder or doesn't properly learn who's

  • who in the first place, our bodies can overreact to harmless substances - like a life-threatening

  • allergic reaction to a minor bee sting. In the Western world, the percentage of children

  • who suffer from immune-system overreactions like allergies and asthma has roughly doubled

  • in the past 40 years or so, even as infectious diseases have become much less common thanks

  • to improved hygiene, water & sewage treatment, and so on. It's highly likely that the increased

  • prevalence of allergies and asthma is due in part to the fact that the environments

  • we live in are too clean and don't give our immune system proper opportunity to learn

  • who's who at a young age. Kind of like how we're better at learning foreign languages

  • when we're younger, our immune systems are best at learning to distinguish harmless foreign

  • substances from harmful ones when exposed to them very early in life.

  • That's why having dog-slobber, kitty hairballs and muddy pawprints around your mother while

  • you're in utero might get your immune system off to a proper start even before you're born!

  • We still don't know exactly how your mother's exposure to extra bacteria influences you

  • in the womb, but we do know that having a pet around before - and after - your birth

  • may help keep your immune cells from barking up the wrong tree.

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  • since August had no... video!

  • Our next goal is for monthly subscriptions on Subbable to also cover the costs of research

  • and script writing. Because without content, MinuteEarth might just become a slideshow

  • of cute puppies... which wouldn't be so bad, but then again, it wouldn't be MinuteEarth.

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Mmmmhhhh, puppies! Most dog-owners say companionship is the number one reason to have a cuddly,

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How your dog can protect you before you're born

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    Halu Hsieh posted on 2014/01/16
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