According to a new study from John Hopkins Medicine, newborns who are exposed to rodent dander, “roach allergens” and various household bacteria before the age of one, have a lower chance of developing asthma or wheezing later on in childhood.

Infants who grew up in homes with mouse and cat dander and cockroach droppings in the first year of life had lower rates of wheezing at age 3, compared with children not exposed to these allergens soon after birth. The protective effect, moreover, was additive, the researchers found, with infants exposed to all three allergens having lower risk than those exposed to one, two or none of the allergens.

Past studies have shown that children who grow up on farms have lower rates of allergies and asthma, attributed to farm soil microorganisms, and inner-city dwellers exposed to the dander and dropping allergens have a higher rate. However, according to this new study tracking 467 newborns from Baltimore, Boston, New York and St. Louis for three years — if you get your kids around this crap early enough, they will be able to deal with our partially-infested city environment better. Do something for the children today: rub a rat on a baby’s head.*

*Don’t actually do that. (Image: @siamesepuppy)