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Last Updated: Sunday, 10 October, 2004, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Children with pets 'more healthy'
Child with pets
Pets appear to have a greater effect on younger children
Young children with pets have fewer days off sick from school, according to academics in Coventry.

University of Warwick researchers found four and five-year-olds whose families kept animals had attendance levels 18% higher than their peers without pets.

Health psychologist Dr June McNicholas said dogs, cats, fish, birds and rodents were among the creatures owned by the children surveyed.

She said the theory was that pets helped boost children's immune systems.

Dr McNicholas said children's health was not improved by any particular type of pet.

The underlying theory is that the immune system develops in relation to what it is exposed to
Dr June McNicholas
"It is more to do with just owning a pet and taking care of it, and having it live in the same house as you."

Researchers monitored 256 children aged five to 11 years from three schools.

The children gave saliva samples which were tested as an indicator of their general state of health.

These results were compared with the children's school attendance records.

Dr McNicholas said previous research had shown children whose families kept pets were less likely to have asthma or allergies.

"The underlying theory is that the immune system develops in relation to what it is exposed to," she said.

Pet-ownership had only a marginal impact on school attendance among children aged seven to 11 years, the research showed.

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