• Children's Center

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Why allergies shouldn’t prevent kids from having pets

Having a pet has been proven to improve overall health, but it can be problematic for children who suffer from pet allergies. Pet dander can cause a long list of allergy symptoms, but most of them are fairly easy to treat. Dr. Anupama Ravi, a Mayo Clinic pediatric allergy specialist, says she doesn't think the allergies they can cause should prevent families from having pets.

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Almost three-quarters of American homes have at least one pet in them, mostly dogs and cats. But four-legged family members can make life tough for kids who are allergic to pets.

"So it depends on that individual's genetic predisposition," Dr. Ravi says. "So if the child has significant eczema, they might slightly be at increased risk of developing a pet allergy."

Dr. Ravi says most of those pet allergy symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter antihistamines or in more severe cases prescription antihistamines.

In extreme cases, kids might need to get allergy shots.

"It's showing the immune system a small amount of the allergen and slowly desensitizing it by increasing the amount slowly with time," Dr. Ravi says.

She says it's also helpful to use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters if you have a cat and to vacuum your home regularly.

But Dr. Ravi doesn't ever tell patients to get rid of their pets.

She says the physical and emotional benefits pets can offer children far outweigh the problems allergies might cause.

"They're family members," Dr. Ravi says. "So I never counsel anybody to get rid of their pet."