When Baby is Allergic to the Family Pet
The decision to keep or remove pets after diagnosis
Testing for Pet Allergies
Itchy and watery eyes, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing and wheezing all add up to one miserable baby. More than likely, this miserable child suffers from allergies. For some children, allergic reactions are caused by trees, mold, and food. For others, the culprit is the family pet.
Each year, hoards of children are subject to allergy testing. The two most common methods of testing children are the skin prick test and the Radioallergosorbent (RAST) test. During the skin prick test, tiny drops of common allergens are placed on your baby’s back, which is then lightly pricked or scratched. The area is then observed for a reaction. Results are available in about 15 minutes. The RAST is a blood test, which checks for antibodies against suspected allergens. It typically takes a few weeks to obtain results from the RAST.
There’s no age limit on allergy testing, says Dr. Sherwin Gillman, clinical professor of pediatrics and allergy at the University of California, Irvine. “The definition of when testing should be done is really a definition of when the symptoms are present,” he says. A baby can be tested as soon as it becomes necessary.
For animal owners, when the test results are positive for pet allergies, life as they know it comes to a screeching halt.
Elissa Sonnenberg, of Cincinnati, Ohio, watched her oldest son go through a three-hour skin prick test to determine the source of his allergies. “Do you have pets?” the allergist asked. “We don’t,” said Sonnenberg. “Don’t get any,” she was told.
It seems like a simple solution. But by the time an allergy is detected, pets may already be full-fledged members of the family. “By the time we knew it was the animals making [my daughter] sick, we had a dog, two cats, a hamster, and a rabbit,” says Jess Boetig, a mom from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Because of the number of animals and the severity of the allergy, her family needed to find new homes for the pets. “It was really hard on us,” says Boetig. “We knew it was necessary, but it was still hard.”
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