Finding out that your child is allergic to your new family pet is upsetting for the whole family. Fortunately, these allergies can be managed, so you may be able to keep your new dog or cat. Here are three things parents need to know about pet dander allergies.
What are the signs of pet dander allergies?
If your child is allergic to your new pet, they may exhibit cold-like symptoms such as a runny nose, stuffy nose, or cough. They may also complain about pressure and pain inside their cheeks, itching inside of their mouth, or waking up frequently during the night.
Some children with pet dander allergies exhibit skin reactions too. After petting or cuddling with their new dog or cat, your child may develop a red, itchy rash on their skin.
If your child experiences any of these symptoms after you bring home a new dog or cat, take them to an allergist. The allergist can perform tests to confirm that your new pet is responsible for the reaction.
How can you reduce your child's exposure?
If your allergist diagnoses your child with a pet dander allergy, you will need to take steps to reduce their exposure to the allergen. Your allergist may recommend finding a new home for your pet, but this can be upsetting for everyone, including your allergic child.
If you want to keep your pet, take steps to protect your child from their dander:
- Keep the door to your child's bedroom closed and don't allow the pet in there;
- Buy a HEPA filter for your child's bedroom;
- Bathe your pet at least once a week to keep dander under control;
- Replace carpets with tiles or hardwood floors for easier cleaning;
- Wash walls and floors regularly to control dander;
- Have your dog or cat live outdoors, if weather in your area permits this;
- Don't allow your allergic child to clean the pet's cage or litter box.
Can pet dander allergies be cured?
Despite your best efforts to control dander inside your home, your child may still react. Fortunately, your allergist can offer immunotherapy to treat the allergy. Immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, works by decreasing your child's sensitivity to the allergens, allowing them to have less serious reactions, or even no reaction at all.
This treatment involves getting one to two injections each week for a period of three to six months, and after that, less frequent injections for the next three to five years. This treatment is unpleasant, but explain to your child that getting all of these needles will allow them to keep their dog or cat.
If you think your child is allergic to your new dog or cat, see an allergist right away.