More exposure to pets results in fewer allergies, study shows

A new study has found pets can protect babies from developing allergies like eczema and hay fever.

Swedish researchers found the more cats and dogs you have in the house the lower the risk.

Pets are good for cuddles, can settle babies, and even help teach them to crawl - and now this can be added to the list of benefits too.

Bringing up babies alongside cats and dogs can prevent them getting asthma and eczema and developing allergies to animals and pollen.

"It may have something to do with what's called the microbiome exposure to the bacteria that animals carry," allergy specialist Associate Professor Rohan Ameratunga said.

"There may be other mechanisms which we don't completely understand."

Researchers found when here were no pets in the house, babies had a 50 percent increased risk of developing asthma, eczema, and allergies to animals and pollen.

Children brought up with five or more pets in their first year were found to have almost a zero risk of asthma and allergies when they reached seven years old.

The Collins household couldn't imagine a life without pets; they have four cats and two dogs - but at one stage had as many as 15.

Tim Collins said the study "makes perfect sense".

"I've never had allergies, my wife's never had allergies, my parents have never had allergies, my son has never had allergies - and we've always grown up with tons and tons of animals."

Mr Ameratunga said he recommends getting close to pets if they're not giving you allergic reactions.

"If somebody has a pet and they're not reacting to the pet and they have allergies, exposure to the pet is actually a good thing."

He said while there's good allergy treatment available, prevention is even better.