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Updated 04 November 2014

10 facts about pets, allergies and kids

Your child has sneezed again. That was number 26 for the day. What could be triggering this, and what can you do about it?

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Your child has sneezed again. That was number 26 for the day and you’re beginning to get a bit desperate. You are hesitant to put your child on medication permanently, but something has to be done.

But before you do anything drastic, try to find out what it is that’s triggering this allergic reaction. Could it be pollution, your pets, house dust? And, more importantly, what can you do about these?

  • Apart from animal dander, the other major allergens include grass, tree and weed pollens, moulds, mites, cigarette smoke, drug allergies, venoms, insects and parasites.
  • Signs that your child may have an allergy include red, itchy eyes, repeated sneezing, runny nose, dark rings under the eyes, a crease across the bridge of the nose, and coughing and wheezing.
  • An allergy is an abnormal sensitivity or reaction of your immune system to a substance (an allergen) that you eat, inhale or touch. Non-allergic people can usually tolerate this substance.
  • Allergies seem to be on the increase, with some people saying it’s the environment that’s getting dirtier, and others saying that children’s homes are getting to be too germ-free, which could mean they are not building up any immunity against allergens.
  • However, if your child shows an allergic reaction to something, it will not help to expose him/her to this allergen constantly. Asthmatic children, for example, continue to react negatively to allergens.
  • Animal fur does not in itself cause allergies. The fur does, however, collect dust, pollen, mould and other allergens. The dried saliva on cats’ fur is also a problem.
  • Allergies are treated with antihistamines, decongestants, steroids, topical skin creams or skin ointment, immunotherapy or allergy injections, or antibiotics if the allergy has caused an infection. The best therapy is, of course, to avoid the allergen.
  • Pet dander is everywhere – a study found that it was present in 100% of the homes surveyed, whether a pet lived there or not. It gets carried from public places (park benches, bus seats etc.) to which animal owners have transported the pet dander.
  • Regular vacuuming and cleaning will reduce the allergens in a home. Bedding needs to be washed every few days and pets need to be banned from the allergy-sufferer’s bedroom. If the presence of the pet is intolerable to the allergy sufferer, another home must be found for it.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated April 2011)

 
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