The Children’s Hospital Q & A: Pet Allergies
Every month, Mile High Mamas features a Q & A from The Children’s Hospital on a different health topic. This month’s topic is all about living with pet allergies. Find out how to make your child’s allergies more bearable – without getting rid of your furry friend.
If your child develops itchy eyes or begins to sneeze while around the family pet, he or she could be one of approximately 10 million people in the U.S. with pet allergies.
How do I know it’s pet allergies?
The first step if you suspect your child may have a pet allergy is to discuss his or her symptoms with your family physician or pediatrician, who can help decide if you should be referred to a pediatric allergy specialist.
“Symptoms usually begin within minutes to an hour of exposure to a pet and commonly consist of itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing,” said Dan Atkins, MD and allergist at The Children’s Hospital. “Difficulty breathing and hives where a pet has touched or licked the skin also can occur. Pet allergies also may trigger an asthma attack, eczema and/or chronic nasal symptoms.”
Are some pets really “hypoallergenic?”
According to Dr. Atkins, one of the most common questions parents have regarding pet allergies is whether certain pets are hypoallergenic (most people assume fur causes allergy symptoms). While animal allergens can stick to fur, they are primarily present in the dander made by glands in the animal’s skin – which is why even shorthaired dogs release allergens. Any type of furry pet, from rabbits and guinea pigs to cats, dogs and horses can cause allergy symptoms.
Help – I don’t want to get rid of our family pet!
If your child is allergic to a pet, there is no way to completely alleviate symptoms without medications (short of removing the pet from the home). However, you can take the following steps to try to reduce your child’s symptoms:
• Get rid of carpeting, use washable area rugs, and clean your home often.
• Give your pet a weekly bath.
• Keep pets out of your child’s bedroom; bedding, carpeting and stuffed animals can trap allergens that are released later upon contact.
• Teach your child to wash his or her hands immediately after handling pets.
• Use a high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) air filter in your home. These filters can remove much of the animal dander floating in the air.