Pets bring meaning and joy to their owners' lives, but if your child has a pet allergy having a cat can cause uncomfortable allergy symptoms. If your child has a cat allergy, you may be wondering if this condition is a permanent one or if it can be effectively managed. Keep reading to learn more about pet allergies, triggers, and symptom management.
Cat Allergies and Asthma in Kids
Children with a family history of asthma will have more difficulty being around cats. The presence of a pet, including cats, can act as a catalyst for allergic asthma symptoms, making the environment challenging for the little ones' respiratory systems. Parents and guardians must be vigilant and considerate of this interaction, as it affects the child's comfort and health.
What Are Cat Allergy Symptoms?
Pet allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe and often mirror those associated with seasonal allergies, so it might be difficult to immediately distinguish between the two. If your child is allergic to cats, exposure will trigger the following allergy symptoms:
- Frequent sneezing
- Runny, stuffy, or itchy nose
- Red or itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Rashes or hives on the skin, particularly where a cat has scratched, bitten, or licked the child’s skin
- Itchy throat or inner ears
- A flare-up of asthma symptoms such as trouble breathing, coughing, and wheezing
In cases of severe symptoms, you should seek medical care as symptoms can escalate to chronic respiratory issues or even an asthma attack.
What Causes Childhood Cat Allergies?
Childhood cat allergies are primarily caused by an overreaction of the immune system to typically harmless substances found in cats. These allergens are proteins in a cat's dander, saliva, and urine. When an allergic child comes into contact with these allergens, their immune system identifies them as threats.
This immune response triggers the release of chemicals such as histamine, which causes allergy symptoms. While it aims to fend off what it perceives as harmful substances, it inadvertently causes the familiar symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Other Influencing Factors for Cat Allergies
While the specific cat allergens and the immune system's response to them are central to cat allergies, additional factors can influence their occurrence and severity. Here are a few key elements that can affect the severity and susceptibility to cat allergies:
The breed of your feline friend can significantly influence the intensity of allergy symptoms. Certain hypoallergenic breeds produce fewer allergens, making them less likely to trigger allergic reactions. However, there are no completely allergen-free cat breeds, so exposure to any breed can trigger an allergic reaction if your child is allergic to cats.
Cleaning and Air Quality
Maintaining a clean environment and high air quality can play a substantial role in managing cat allergies. Regular vacuuming, using air purifiers, and keeping surfaces free of dust can reduce cat allergens in the environment. This can mitigate cat allergy symptoms, providing much-needed relief for allergy sufferers.
Genetics also plays a role in animal allergies. A child with parents or siblings who have allergies, including other types like food allergies, is more likely to develop allergies themselves. This inherited susceptibility makes understanding family medical history important in assessing a child's risk of developing allergies.
The level and frequency of exposure to cats can influence the severity of the allergic reaction. For some children, prolonged exposure to different allergens in cats might lead to increased symptoms. Conversely, limited exposure to cats and their allergens may lessen the intensity of an allergic reaction.
What Cat Breeds Are Considered Hypoallergenic?
When it comes to mitigating allergies, some cat breeds might be a more suitable choice. Hypoallergenic breeds tend to produce fewer allergens, and although no cat breed is completely allergen-free, these might cause fewer reactions in individuals with cat allergies. Here are some of these hypoallergenic cat breeds:
- Russian Blue
- Devon Rex
- Cornish Rex
- Oriental Shorthair
Remember, individual reactions can vary, even with hypoallergenic breeds. It's recommended to spend time with a cat of the hypoallergenic breed before bringing them home to see how your child's allergies respond.
Can You Be Allergic to Hypoallergenic Cats?
Hypoallergenic cats are often recommended for individuals with allergies. However, it's essential to understand that hypoallergenic doesn't mean completely allergen-free. The term indicates that these cats produce fewer allergens than other breeds. Cat allergens are found in pet dander, saliva, and urine.
Even hypoallergenic cats shed dander and groom themselves by licking their fur, leading to the spread of pet saliva, which is an allergen.
Moreover, pet hair can trap allergens like pollen and dust, which are released into the environment when the pet sheds. If your child is allergic to pollen or dust, being around pets can expose them to their allergy trigger and cause allergy symptoms.
Tips for Managing Allergy Symptoms at Home
Living with a family cat when your child is allergic can be challenging. Fortunately, there are numerous strategies to manage allergy symptoms and coexist harmoniously with your furry companions. Here are some essential cat allergy tips to alleviate the symptoms of pet allergies at home:
- Maintain cleanliness: Regular home cleaning can significantly reduce allergen exposure by preventing accumulation. Vacuuming carpets and upholstered furniture and mopping hard floors can help keep animal dander levels low.
- Limit contact areas: Restrict your cat's access to certain areas, like your child’s bedroom, to ensure there are zones in your house with fewer cat allergens.
- Regular grooming: Bathe and groom your cat to reduce the amount of dander and dried pet saliva on their coat. However, it's best if someone without allergies performs this task to avoid direct exposure. Also, make sure you don’t bathe your pet too frequently as it can cause skin irritation for some breeds.
- Utilize HEPA Filters: High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters can trap allergens in the air, preventing them from spreading throughout your home. Consider using a HEPA filter in your air conditioning system or getting a standalone air purifier.
- Frequent hand washing: Encourage your children to wash their hands thoroughly after petting a cat. You should also change your child’s clothes and remind them not to touch their face and eyes.
- Consider allergy medications: If the above strategies don’t work, you can opt for over-the-counter medications to manage your child’s symptoms.
It may take up to six months for the levels of cat allergens in your home to drop. In some cases, it might be challenging to keep the cat, especially in extreme cases where symptoms are severe and other strategies prove ineffective. This decision might be difficult, particularly if the cat has become a cherished family member. However, before you rehome your cat, there are still several other options you can try.
When to Consult a Pediatrician or Allergist
If your child is experiencing mild allergy symptoms, at-home remedies will most likely be effective. However, in cases of severe symptoms, it’s necessary to consult your child’s doctor or allergy specialist. Consult a healthcare professional in the case of the following:
- Persistent or worsening allergy symptoms despite implementing management strategies
- Severe allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, or swelling
- Uncertainty about the specific cause of the allergy or whether it is cat-related
- When exploring the possibility of immunotherapy to build tolerance and reduce allergic reactions
A pediatrician can provide initial guidance and treatment for allergies. However, consulting an allergist or allergy specialist is vital, as they have specialized expertise in diagnosing and managing allergies. Allergists can conduct comprehensive allergy testing to identify what your child is allergic to.
How Important Is Getting My Kid Allergy Tested?
Getting your kid’s allergies tested is highly important for managing their allergies effectively. Allergy testing helps identify specific allergens that trigger your child's symptoms. It provides valuable information to guide treatment decisions and help create an individualized management plan.
By pinpointing the exact allergens causing your child's allergies, you can take targeted measures to reduce their exposure and minimize allergic reactions. While traditional allergy testing methods, like the skin prick test performed at an allergist's office, are widely used and effective, technological advancements have introduced more convenient options.
An example is Wyndly’s at-home allergy testing kit, which allows you to collect a small blood sample at home using a finger prick. Unlike traditional skin prick tests that require several needle pricks and can result in uncomfortable hives, at-home allergy testing only requires a small finger prick. Once you collect the sample, you then mail it back to our labs and our allergy doctors will interpret your child’s allergy results and create a personalized treatment plan for them. This test is available for children ages five and up and is a convenient alternative to skin prick tests, saving time and reducing the need for multiple office visits.
Sublingual immunotherapy is a type of allergy immunotherapy used to retrain your immune system to stop reacting to your allergy triggers. Sublingual immunotherapy involves taking allergy drops or tablets containing small doses of the allergens you’re allergic to. Over time, the immune system gradually becomes desensitized and stops reacting when you’re exposed to your allergy triggers. This results in long-term relief from your allergy symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy is a popular alternative to allergy shots since it doesn’t require frequent injections and can be safely taken from the comfort of home. Children age five and up can use sublingual immunotherapy, making it a good option for children afraid of needles or the doctor’s office.
Take Our Allergy Assessment and Get Treatment Today
If you’re tired of cat allergies and other animal allergies holding your child back, choose Wyndly. Provided your child is five or older, our allergy doctors will create a personalized immunotherapy treatment plan to help your child get long-term allergy relief. Take our quick assessment to find a solution for your child.