If My Child Has Asthma, Can We Keep Our Pet?
Only about 10% of the general population has pet allergies, but at least 30% of people with asthma are allergic to animals. So if your child has asthma, consider whether your pet could be producing allergens that are triggering asthma symptoms.
Contrary to popular belief, your animal's fur probably isn't the culprit. Allergies are caused by the body's reaction to a protein found in the animal's dander (dead skin flakes), saliva, urine, and feathers. Though pet hair itself isn't the problem, this protein can cling to the fur when an animal licks itself.
Also, an animal's fur can collect dust mites, pollen, mold, and other allergens. And any animal that lives in a cage (from birds to gerbils) will produce droppings that can attract mold and dust mites.
You may hear people say that certain breeds of dogs or cats, particularly those that don't shed, won't trigger asthma, but all warm-blooded animals shed allergy-causing proteins and are capable of causing an allergic reaction.
If you're wondering whether your child is allergic to a pet, consider having him or her tested for allergies. If your child turns out to be allergic to your pet, you'll have to decide whether to keep it or find it a new home. The best course is to remove the pet from your home, though this isn't usually the easiest or happiest solution. Your child, other kids in the family, and even adults in the family may have a tough time with this decision.
In some cases, your doctor may say that it's OK to keep a pet if your child receives medicine or allergy shots. If you go this route, you'll still want to limit your child's exposure to the animal, such as by keeping the pet out of your child's bedroom and play areas. Hard as this is to enforce, try to teach your child not to hug or kiss the animal. Vacuum and dust regularly and avoid rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting, especially in your child's room.
Unfortunately, such measures may not be enough — because animal allergens are airborne, heating and ventilation systems will spread allergens throughout the house, even if the pet is confined to one room. Keeping the pet in the yard may not be a total solution either because some allergens will eventually be carried in on clothing.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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