FINLAND--Cats and dogs could help keep children healthy, according to a new study from Finland.

The study, published in the August issue of Pediatrics, followed nearly 400 children from birth to their first birthday.

Researchers found babies who grew up with cats or dogs had fewer ear infections and respiratory problems.

The authors say animal interaction helps a baby's immune system to mature.

They also found that kids with pets needed less medication-- even when they were sick.

Researchers say families with dogs that went outside fared the best. Researchers speculate the dirt the animals track in may stimulate a baby's immune system.

Still, they say more research is needed on the subject.

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