About animal allergies
Allergies are caused when the immune system reacts to a specific foreign substance (allergen). In children who are allergic to animals, their bodies are reacting to animal proteins found in dander, saliva, and urine.
- 15 percent of people are allergic to animals
- Most common in children but can develop later in life, or recur at any time.
When animal proteins are shed or dry in animal fur, or become airborne, they can attach to carpeting, furniture, and other objects and trigger allergies in people.
Which animals cause allergies?
Household pets, such as dogs and cats, are the most common, but anything with fur or feathers, such as birds, rodents (hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice), or livestock can cause symptoms. "Non-allergenic" breeds of dogs and cats are popular, but can still trigger allergies, as can products made with feathers or down, like certain pillows and comforters.
What happens during an allergic reaction?
Allergic reaction may occur in the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat, and lungs. Reactions can result in:
- Rhinitis: nasal stuffiness, sneezing, nasal itching, nasal discharge, itching in ears or roof of mouth
- Allergic conjunctivitis: red, itchy, watery eyes
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema): red, itchy, dry skin
- Urticaria: hives or itchy welts
- Contact dermatitis: itchy rash
- Asthma: shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
Are allergies genetic?
There is a tendency for allergies to occur in families, although the exact genetic factors that cause them aren't yet understood.
Animal Allergy | Diagnosis & Treatments
How are animal allergies diagnosed?
All tests measure your child's level of Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies to specific allergens.
Using diluted solutions of specific allergens, the physician either injects your child with the solutions or applies them to a small scratch or puncture. Reaction appears as a small red area on the skin.
Skin tests provide faster results and are more specific than blood tests.
A RAST (radioallergosorbent test) will analyze the level of antibodies in your child's bloodstream.
How do we treat animal allergies in children?
Your child's doctor may treat your child using immunotherapy (allergy shots) or medication that includes steroidal and antihistamine nose sprays and antihistamine pills.
There are many things you can do at home to help reduce your child's allergic reactions:
- Vacuum frequently and use air filters.
- Send pets outdoors more often; bathing them or limiting the number of rooms they're allowed in can also help.