Toddlers exposed to other children are less likely to develop asthma, suggests research published in The Journal of Pediatrics, reported by Reuters Health.

Researchers examined data of 939 children up to age 15 from the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development.

Study investigators found that the number of other kids the children were exposed to as toddlers (ages 16 to 36 months only) influenced asthma onset.

“The fewer the children exposed to as toddlers, the higher the probability of persistent or late-onset asthma by age 15,” said researchers from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

For every additional child the toddlers met in their primary care environment, they experienced a reduced risk of asthma until they reached age 9, researchers concluded.

But before you pack off the kiddies to a crowded day care facility, read on. Analysts also suggested that because asthma risk increased for toddlers who were in day care with 10 or more other children, there might be a “threshold for this protective effect.”

In general, the findings support previous evidence that early exposure to germs, animals and other kids builds immunity against asthma.

Researchers cautioned, however, that the data are only a starting point for future research about differences in child care environments and asthma risk.

“Although it is useful to have positive data to share with parents who have no choice but to depend on child care, I am hesitant to make strong recommendations about child care for individual children,” said John T. McBride, MD, of Northwestern Ohio University’s College of Medicine in Rootstown, commenting on the study.

Find out the asthma rates among African Americans here.