Caring for a pet can be a hugely rewarding experience for children. As well as providing them with a companion, pets also encourage kids to develop a nurturing and responsible personality. But what do you do if your child is at risk of developing a pet allergy? From sneezing to eczema, this guide will help you to spot symptoms of pet allergies as soon as they appear.
What causes pet allergies?
For some children, tiny molecules in their pet’s skin, saliva and urine can lead to an allergic reaction. The symptoms of allergies are produced when the immune system becomes active and releases high amounts of chemicals, particularly histamine, which causes blood vessels to swell.
The most common symptoms of an allergy are:
- Red, itchy or swollen eyes
- Eczema or reddened areas on the skin
- Runny nose or nasal congestion
- Stuffy or itchy ears
- Itchy or hoarse throat
- Asthmatic symptoms — coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath
If you suspect that your child has a pet allergy, write down all the symptoms your child has, and also note what your child is doing when the reaction occurs. You can then take this list to your GP for a diagnoses, which may be confirmed with a skin test or blood samples.
Coping with pet allergies
Dr Rob Hicks, a GP, recommends using a three-point attack to cope with the symptoms of pet allergies.
“Avoid triggers, use your allergy treatments as advised and reduce the allergens in your home,” he says. “Reducing the allergens in your home will help keep your allergy under control.”
To reduce pet allergens in the home, the NHS suggests taking the following steps:
- Vacuum carpets and hard floors daily, and soft furnishings twice a week. Remember to vacuum under sofas and beds where allergens can gather. Vacuums with a allergen filter will work best.
- Don’t allow pets in bedrooms and, if possible, keep them out of the living room.
- Keep pets outside as much as possible.
- Wash your pets once a week. Don’t forget to dry the animals properly afterwards.
- Groom dogs regularly outside.
- Clean your home thoroughly and wipe hard surfaces with a damp cloth to collect allergens.
- Wash all bedding regularly.
- Avoid items that gather allergens and that are difficult to clean, such as soft toys, bric-a-brac and cushions.
In the most persistent cases, the only solution may be to rehome your child’s pet. As this is upsetting for everyone involved, it is important for you to know that you have exhausted all other alternatives first.
Alternative causes of allergic symptoms
If your child if showing allergic symptoms, it may not be down to your dog. Dust mites and mold are two of the most common sources of allergens and thrive in many of the places where your dog spends much of his time. A recent study has suggested that replacing dog beds that are over a year old could help to reduce allergic symptoms.
More allergy articles:
Dust mite allergies