If you want your child to grow up without asthma, try having your baby sleep on animal fur.
Though PETA may not be happy with the decision, a new study suggests that animal fur's microbes could help infants build resistance to asthma. The research, presented Monday at the European Respiratory Society International Congress in Munich, suggests that sleeping on animal fur for a baby's first three months could reduce the risk of childhood asthma and allergies.
The researchers looked at 2,441 children who lived in city environments and studied the effects of animal skin and fur on their health. The participants were recruited as newborns in 1998 and studied until they were 10 years old. Fifty-five percent of the children slept on animal skin during their first three months, while the other participants did not.
The study found that sleeping on animal skin for the first three months reduced a number of asthma risk factors. Those who slept on animal skin for three months reduced their asthma risk at age 6 by 79 percent, as compared with those who weren't exposed to it.
"Previous studies have suggested that microbes found in rural settings can protect from asthma. An animal skin might also be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments," Dr. Christina Tischer of the Helmholtz Zentrum München Research Center said in a statement. "Our findings have confirmed that it is crucial to study further the actual microbial environment within the animal fur to confirm these associations."