Family pets are often problematic for children with asthma. Some animals, however, are less likely to worsen asthma symptoms. For families who have a child with asthma or a strong family history of allergies, it’s always best to have some extended exposure with an animal before you decide to bring it home and make it part of your family. It’s better to find out that an animal irritates your child’s asthma before bringing it home rather than afterward.
Cats and Asthma
Cats typically cause more problems for children with asthma than dogs do, but every child is different and parents need to determine what works for their child. Depending on the severity of the allergies, it may be an option to keep an outdoor cat as a pet. If you decide to get an outdoor cat, be sure and consider whether your child’s allergies will be triggered by touching the cat or by any allergens that come into the house from the garage, if the cat is allowed in the garage, or on the clothing of other family members.
Dogs and Asthma
According to the American Kennel Club, approximately 10 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs, however some breeds are known for being more hypoallergenic than others. When President Obama was searching for a family dog that met the needs of his allergic daughter, he considered some of these hypoallergenic breeds which include the Bedlington terrier, bichon frise, Chinese crested, Irish water spaniel , Kerry blue terrier, Maltese, poodle, Portuguese water dog, schnauzer, soft-coated wheaten terrier and xoloitzcuintli. There’s no guarantee that a child with asthma would not have an increase in asthma and allergy symptoms with a hypoallergenic dog breed, but those breeds do produce less dander, which is what causes allergies in humans.
Fish and Asthma
Fish are a great, low-maintenance pet for families with young children, but parents of asthmatic children will still want to be aware that they can still be an allergen. It isn’t the fish itself that can irritate asthma, but the mold that can form on the tank. Filters should be cleaned often to limit mold growth and damp places on and around the tank should be wiped daily. Children love feeding their pets, and that is a great way to teach responsibility, but food that spills need to be cleaned up right away to prevent mold and other bacteria from growing.
Limiting Allergens in a Home with Pets
If you have a child with asthma and you decide to bring a pet into your home, it’s essential to keep your home clean to limit the amount of dander, dust mites and mold that are in your home. Keep pets out of the your child’s sleeping area and off furniture. Hard flooring is best since it doesn’t trap dander, but if you have carpet, be sure and vacuum frequently with a vacuum that has a HEPA air filter. Bathe your pet often, especially after being outside, since pets can bring other allergens into the home from the yard.
An Alternative to a Pet
If your child’s asthma and allergies are too severe to have a pet in your home, consider spending time with animals in controlled places outside of your home. Many libraries offer story time with therapy dogs for younger children. These animals are well groomed and likely OK for most children with asthma for short-term exposure. Talk to a friend or family member with a pet and ask them if your child can visit with their pet for short periods of time. Children with asthma who are unable to have a pet of their own may enjoy reading books about animals or watching educational videos about their favorite animal.