Eczema & Pets

Eczema & Pets

Jennie Lyon

Eczema & Pets

Should your eczema child have a pet?

When your child wants a pet, it can sometimes be hard to say no. Pets provide companionship and love, two things that all children need. The bond between a child and their animal can be incredibly deep and powerful. The tragedy is that, for a kid with allergies, the animal might also be the unwilling cause of their symptoms. For some children, those symptoms can go far beyond the usual stuffy nose and itchy eyes; the beloved animal can also trigger eczema flare-ups.

Some pets are worse than others. Cats, for example, are the leaders when it comes to triggering eczema. It’s common for sufferers to react to dander (the word for a cat’s dead skin), but also their fur, saliva, and even waste products in the litter box.

A protein in cat saliva, called Fel d 1, is actually the primary cause of allergies and is transferred to the fur and skin when the cat washes itself. Some cats have higher levels of Fel d 1 than others, but it’s almost always there. If you see a breed of cat that’s marketed as hypoallergenic because it’s breed produces less Fel d 1, there still isn’t any guarantee that they won’t cause allergies or eczema.

Surprisingly, some studies have shown that babies who have an allergy to dogs, but still grow up with a dog in the house, are actually less likely to develop eczema. This doesn’t mean that your dog isn't an eczema trigger, just that the number of dog related eczema cases are less than those of cats. It could be that man’s best friend is also an eczema sufferer’s trigger.

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If you suspect that your pet is either causing or exacerbating your child’s eczema, you’ll need to test to confirm. The only way to do this is to remove the pet from your home and perform a deep clean of the house to get rid of any allergens or triggers that might remain. Don’t jump to conclusions if the eczema immediately clears up, it might just be because the deep clean of the house got rid of other potential triggers like dust mites and mould. Keep up with the house cleaning and then, after a period of time, bring the pet back into your home. If there’s suddenly another eczema flare up, it’s most probably triggered by your pet. If that’s the case, you’ll need to think long and hard about finding your pet a new home.

If your child wants a pet, but is at high risk for eczema, you may want to look for alternative pets. Small creatures like hamsters and gerbils may seem like a potential solution, but they’re still considered high risk for allergies. If there is no phobia in the home, you could consider getting a reptile like a lizard or corn snake. Reptiles are quiet, easy to care for, and have a very low risk of triggering an eczema breakout. A turtle might also be an option. A pet bird could also be a good idea, although its droppings could be yet another potential eczema trigger.

The bond between a pet and its owners runs deep, and parting can be extremely painful. However, if the presence of a pet is causing eczema flares, you may have no choice but to give them to another loving, and welcoming, home.

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