There are many different types of allergies – food allergies, drug allergies, allergies to environmental pollutants such as dust and smoke, and pet allergies. They occur when your immune system reacts to a foreign substance such as pollen, mould or pet dander (dead flakes of skin). While some of these allergies may be common among children, some youngsters are seemingly more susceptible than others.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the pets’ hair that makes a child sneeze and wheeze. It’s the proteins found in their urine, saliva, or pet dander, says the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The proteins can stick to surfaces of walls, furniture, and clothing and remain there for an extended period of time. And before you blame Fido’s dander for the allergy, remember it could be just pollen he brought in after rummaging in the park, into your home.
Dander, however, is a particular problem as they are very tiny and can remain airborne for long periods. Also, they tend to collect easily in upholstered furniture and sticks to most clothing material. While pet allergies are fairly common, your child is more likely to develop a pet allergy if allergies or asthma already runs in your family.
According to the Mayo Clinic, being exposed to pets at an early age may help you avoid pet allergies. Some studies have found that children who live with a dog in the first year of life may have better resistance to upper respiratory infections during childhood than children who don't have a dog at that age.
Another, published in the Journal of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology has found that exposing a baby to a pet doesn’t increase the risk of developing allergies or asthma. It may actually protect the child from developing them in the future.
With a large percentage of our children affected by one kind of allergy or another, how do you know if your child has an allergy to your pet? What are some of the signs to indicate that he may be suffering from an allergic reaction?
Symptoms of allergies may include watery eyes, stuffy nose and in extreme cases, wheezing and possibly an asthma attack. But no need to fear and run around looking for an alternative home for the pet. There are several ways to ease these symptoms, and hopefully, keep everyone happy in the family.
Protecting Your Child
1. Clean: Susan Dorai, mother of a 10-year-old girl, shares that her family pet sleeps in her daughter’s room. Despite what many have said, she has no misgivings about the pet being in the house or the rooms. She says: “I just clean more often and rope in my husband and daughter to help out. Even the pet runs around with the rag trying to help with the wipe down!” She added that installing an air purifier in the bedrooms would be an excellent idea.
2. Change: Use dust-mite covers for your child’s mattress, blanket, pillow covers, etc. Doreen Ng who has three children aged between one and 10 years old, says that she has been practising this as advised by her paediatrician. They have three dogs.
3. Hygiene: Teach your child to wash his hands with soap and water after he touches or plays with the pet. And remember to change his clothes after he is done playing with the pet.
4. No carpets: Do not use carpets in any of the rooms, as dander sticks to carpets easily. Stephanie says that this keeps her sanity as there are fewer things to clean.
5. Grooming: Ensure that your pet is groomed weekly. This sort of helps it not shed so frequently.
6. Medication: See a paediatrician and keep allergy medication handy for your child.
As a parent, you must decide what’s best for your child and your family. Many consider pets as part of the family and making changes to accommodate these furry creatures is all about staying together as a family and learning important life lessons.
Finally, before bringing a pet home, try to expose your child to the animal a few times first. It’s a good way to see if your child develops any symptoms that would indicate that you might want to wait a little while more, or at least re-consider an alternative pet (turtles, fishes for example).
When it comes to diagnosing pet allergies, it’s pretty easy to tell as most symptoms occur fairly soon exposure. Skin tests or special allergy blood tests can also be done, to confirm a suspicion of an animal allergy.
Many of the lifestyle changes and allergy medications can help reduce uncomfortable symptoms if you love your pet and don’t want to give up being around them. An allergist can perform tests and tell you what type of treatment is available to alleviate the symptoms. Talk to your doctor about your allergy and your treatment options.
Rufus & Coco:
It comes with 51 rubberized bristles to remove allergy triggering dander and helps keep your pets’ coat silky smooth. Ergonomically designed, it facilitates the removal of loose hair from the topcoat and undercoat.