Pet Allergies in Children

Pet allergies can affect children from early infancy. Allergies are difficult to diagnose, as it is hard to establish whether an allergic reaction has occurred because of the exposure to a pet or to some other allergen in the child's environment. Usually, a doctor will need to run an allergy test in order to know for sure if it is the pet's presence that is harmful to your child.

Causes of Pet Allergies in Children

Pet allergies are caused by animal protein reaching your child's airways or skin. The pet's hair is not causing the allergy, but the dander is.

Dander, especially in cats, is very light and can be spread in the air, contaminating clothes and furniture so that, even the pet is not present, the child will still experience allergic symptoms. Dander might still be around the house even years after the pet has been removed.

When the child’s body is confronted with the foreign proteins in the dander, it produces histamines. Histamines cause the reddening and swelling of tissues, coughing and wheezing (asthma).

If the skin is affected the allergy causes atopic dermatitis or a nettle rash.

Risks of Getting a Pet Allergy

Some children are more prone to allergies than others:

  • Children who are allergic to other things, such as weeds or chemicals, are more likely to develop pet allergies.
  • Vulnerability to allergies is hereditary, so if the parents have allergies, there is higher risk that the child might develop an allergy to pets.
  • A weak immune system, which may be due to a chronic medical condition

Reducing Risks of Pet Allergies in Your Child

There are ways of reducing exposure to allergens:

  • Do not let the pet in all the rooms of the house (especially the child’s bedroom), it is best if his access is restricted to uncarpeted areas and
  • Place the litter box as far as possible from the child's living area.
  • Clean the house thoroughly.
  • Hard, smooth surfaces are easier to clean than carpets, so you might consider replacing the carpets with hardwood, especially in your child's room.
  • Keep the pet off the furniture
  • Change your child's clothes and have him have a bath after playing with the pet, or at least wash his hands.
  • Make sure you have good ventilation and air purifiers to keep the air free of dander.
  • Keep your pet well groomed

As all animals spread dander, there is no hypo-allergenic pet. Still, there are some breeds of cats and dogs which are less allergenic than others.

Treatment of Pet Allergies in Children

If exposal to the allergen continues and the allergy is not treated, insomnia due to deficient breathing can appear.

The asthma will worsen, possibly leading to severe asthma attacks, ear infections are also possible complications.

Saline nasal rinse might be enough for relief of light symptoms.

If the symptoms are more severe, your child's doctor can prescribe allergy medicine or refer you to an allergist who will probably prescribe allergy shots.