Lots of people have pets — in fact, 45% of us own dogs, and more than 30% own cats. While pet ownership is high, nearly 15% of people have a pet allergy. A pet allergy is different from seasonal allergies. They are caused by a person’s immune reaction to the dander or saliva from an animal like a dog, cat, rabbit, guinea pig, or other furry creature. Unlike seasonal allergies, which develop at different times of the year, pet allergies cause year-round reactions, including a stuffy nose; itchy, red, and watery eyes; and sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.
How do I know if my baby is allergic to my pet?
An allergy specialist can provide a skin prick test, which puts your baby’s skin into contact with several different allergens, including pets. The doctor will wait for about 20 minutes and then check your baby’s skin. If there’s a small red bump (and it’s usually itchy, although your baby won’t be able to tell you), that means your baby is allergic to an allergen.
The doctor will judge how severe your baby’s reaction is, and then discuss what your next steps may be.
Those steps could include:
- Keeping your pet or pets from the entering your bedrooms, especially the room where your baby sleeps.
- Buying HVAC/furnace filters that reduce your baby’s exposure to pet allergens.
- Cleaning everything in your home that could trap or carry dander and fur, including bed sheets, blankets, drapes, and furniture. Also, clean all the hard surfaces like tables, dressers, and counter tops – and even the walls – to eliminate allergens. Carpeting is particularly good at trapping allergens for months, so you may want to consider replacing your carpeting with wood or tile floors.
- Using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. However, don’t vacuum when your baby is in the same room, since particles will stay in the air for at least an hour.
- Keeping pets off the furniture, especially the beds.
- Protecting the baby’s crib with an allergen-proof covering and washing the baby’s sheets often in hot water.
- Putting your cat’s litter box in an area of the house that your baby can't access.
You can shop for certified asthma and allergy friendly products which have been scientifically tested and approved by an organization like the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. A full list of products is on the AAFA website.