JAN 15, 2016 1:43 PM PST

Safe to Cuddle With Pets When Home Sick With Cold or Flu

WRITTEN BY: Julianne Chiaet
Humans and their pets share a strong bond

The next time you’re home sick with a massive cold or the flu, cuddle up with your dog or cat. It will cheer you up and it’s perfectly safe for the both of you. 

Humans and their pets share a strong bond. Therapists trained in animal-assisted therapy draw on these bonds in order to improve their patent’s social, emotional, and cognitive functioning. The benefits of animal-assisted therapy include lowering one’s blood pressure, improving heart health, and lowering anxiety. 

So, even if a person is sick, “the pet is a comfort, not a hazard,” said William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Your pets won’t catch or spread your cold or virus. It’s even unlikely for someone to catch your virus by petting your dog or cat after you have.
 
 

You can catch a cold or flu from your fellow humans, not from your pets. "Flu is transmitted person-to-person through close personal contact. If you get within my breathing zone, within three feet, I can transfer the influenza virus to you. I breathe it out, you breathe it in, and you can be infected," Schaffner said.

People can spread colds and the flu by shaking someone’s hand or using a doorknob before someone else who then touches his or her face. “People should wash their hands often and use hand sanitizer,” Schaffner said. “Also, when flu is rampant in the community, greet friends with an elbow bump rather than a handshake.” Schaffner notes that the best way for people and their pets to avoid getting sick is by getting immunized; so people should get a flu shot and pets should receive an annual vaccination.

Ultimately, it’s important to take precautions to avoid getting sick. But, if you’re already sick, stay home and cuddle your pet. 

Sources: Vanderbilt University Medical Center Newsroom via Newswise, Mayo Clinic
About the Author
  • Julianne (@JuliChiaet) covers health and medicine for LabRoots. Her work has been published in The Daily Beast, Scientific American, and MailOnline. While primarily a science journalist, she has also covered culture and Japanese organized crime. She is the New York Board Representative for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). • To read more of her writing, or to send her a message, go to Jchiaet.com
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