Children who live with cats and dogs when they are infants are less likely to develop allergies later — and the more pets they have, the better, said a Swedish study of 1,278 children.

Researchers interviewed the parents of 249 of the children when they were 6 to 12 months old, and the children had clinical evaluations done at 18 months, 3 and 8 to 9 years. The remaining families completed questionnaires on pet ownership and on the incidence of asthma, eczema and allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

In both groups, allergy reports declined steadily with the number of pets, from about a third of the children in families with no pets down to zero in households with five or more cats or dogs.

The lead author, Bill Hesselmar, an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg, said that having pets is only one factor in reducing the risk for allergy. “This is the hygiene hypothesis at work,” he said. “Even sucking on a pacifier and then giving it back to the kid produces a reduced risk for allergy.”

Alcohol may benefit heart failure patients

Patients with heart failure may live longer if they have a few alcoholic drinks a week, a new study suggests.

Studies on the effect of alcohol on the risk of heart failure have had mixed results. But this is the first study to look at drinking after a heart failure diagnosis.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, studied 393 people, average age 79, who had heart failure. Defining a drink as 12 ounces of beer, 6 ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of hard liquor, they found that those who never drank survived for an average of 2,640 days, or about seven years and three months, after a heart failure diagnosis. That was compared with 3,046 days for patients who had as many as seven drinks a week.

Dr. David L. Brown does not suggest that someone who doesn’t drink take up drinking. But, he said, “I would feel comfortable telling a patient that there’s probably no harm in continuing to drink.”

Stroke may be early sign of cancer

A heart attack or stroke may be an early sign of cancer.

Researchers studied records of 374,331 Medicare beneficiaries, mean age 76, with cancer diagnoses from 2005 to 2013. They matched them with an equal number without cancer.

In the first seven months, there was no difference between the groups. But from then on, the risk of a cardiovascular event rose in patients who would later be diagnosed with cancer. At one month before diagnosis, those with a cancer diagnosis had more than five times the risk of heart attack or stroke compared with those without a cancer diagnosis.

The researchers found that the highest risks were in those with diagnoses of lung and colorectal cancers.