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Animal allergies 101


They may be our best friends and internet superstars, but pet allergies are a fact of life for many children.

They’re our best friends and the stars of viral videos, but dogs, cats, and other furry animals can also be the cause of allergies that make children miserable. Dander, saliva, feces, and urine are all potential sources of allergens.

A reaction to a pet allergen typically occurs 15 to 30 minutes after initial exposure in children who are particularly sensitive, but those with mild allergies may not have a reaction for a day or 2. If dander collects on furniture or clothing, an allergic reaction may occur, even if the pet is no longer in the home. Anaphylaxis is not common with pet allergies. Common symptoms of pet allergies include:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes or skin
  • Rash/hives

In addition to using over-the-counter decongestants and antihistamines to relieve symptoms, families can reduce allergy symptoms by:

  • Having the pet groomed regularly, which can reduce dander
  • Washing hands and changing clothes after interacting with the pet
  • Vacuuming floors and furniture on a regular basis to remove pet dander
  • Preventing the pet’s access to rooms like bedrooms

Allergies can be confirmed by a clinician or allergist through either skin prick testing or testing for immunoglobulin E. For children with more severe allergies, allergy shots may be a way to ameliorate the allergies.

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Paul V. Williams, MD, FAAP
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