How Pets Can Impact Your Little One’s Eczema

January 12, 2023 3 min read

How Pets Can Impact Your Little One’s Eczema

Is your little one constantly struggling with eczema flare ups? Have you overhauled your family’s nutrition, home environment, skincare and still haven’t seen an improvement? 

If you’ve eliminated every possible trigger on the list (allergies, stress, irritants, etc.), it might be time to consider one more… Your family pet! 

We mostly hear about allergies and pets, right?  Not much about how pets may trigger eczema flare-ups.

Sadly yes, furry pets are among the most common causes of allergies. Cats usually cause more allergies than dogs.

Sneezing, cough, wheezing, red itchy eyes and even hives on the skin may occur when a family member has an allergy to a house pet.

The best way to find out if your child is allergic to your cat or dog is by getting a blood test and sometimes even a skin test is necessary. If your little one needs to be tested, I suggest that you ask your pediatrician to get tested. 

So, let’s talk first about  CATS. 

Cats don’t cause eczema directly, but exposure to the proteins found in flakes of skin shed by cats (also called cat dander), as well as in their saliva and urine may trigger a flare up in little ones who are allergic to cats AND have a history of eczema.

Children may react to some cats and not others, or even when pets aren't around, as these proteins (allergens) stick to clothes.

A study done at the University of Cincinnati showed that:

Children who owned a cat before the age of 1 year and were allergic to cats based on allergy skin testing were 13 times more likely to develop eczema by the age of 4 years. However, children who were not allergic to cats were not at an increased risk for eczema if they owned a cat.

What about DOGS?

Dogs may trigger eczema in little ones if they are allergic to dogs. And same way as seen with cats, dogs do NOT cause eczema directly, but exposure to proteins in the dog’s urine, saliva or dander will trigger a flare-up.

Parents usually ask if dog hair is what causes allergies. And the answer is NO, BUT it can collect dander, urine and saliva, as well as dust and pollen, which once again would trigger an eczema flare up if your little one is known to be allergic to one, several or all of them AND already has a history of eczema.

Do you see the relationship? Furry pets do NOT directly cause eczema. It is the exposure to these “allergens” such as dander, the protein found in urine and saliva, dust and pollen that will trigger a flare-up IF your child ALREADY has a history of eczema. 

Also, it is important to be aware that children with DOG allergies may be more sensitive to some breeds of dogs than others.

AND there are some children that may be allergic to ALL dogs!

Parents have asked me if it’s OK to get a “hypoallergenic” breed of dogs or cats. And unfortunately, a truly “hypoallergenic” dog or cat does NOT exist.

Studies have found that children with clinically identified allergies to dogs, but who lived with a dog, were almost 4 times LESS likely to have eczema at age 4 years than those who hadn’t. Interestingly, this does NOT apply to cats. Children with a cat allergy are not always able to build up a resistance and are more likely to suffer from cat induced eczema flare-ups.

If your little one is allergic to your pet and it is triggering eczema flare-ups, you may want to consider removing the pet from the house. I know, this can be so difficult! Your pet is an important member of your family. Our family has a dog and we love him dearly, so I completely empathize with this difficult decision.

The GOOD NEWS is that there are other options to consider. For example:

  • Keep your pet out of your child’s bedroom and be sure to clean/vacuum your home frequently.  
  • Bathe your pet and wash pet bedding a minimum of once per week.
  • Another option is to keep your pet permanently outdoors.

I know, there is a lot to consider when it comes to your pets and your little one’s health. Please know that you do have options and armed with good information, you can find the solution that works best for your family (including your sweet furry pets!). 

I hope this information is helpful to you and your family. Here’s wishing you and your little one’s healthy, happy skin always! 

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