Get the answers to your questions about animal allergies and your children.
Animal Allergy Facts
Contrary to popular belief, people aren't allergic to animal fur. Rather, it's a protein in the dander (skin scales) and the animal's saliva that can trigger those itchy eyes, rashes, sneezing, coughing, or a runny or stuffy nose. Reactions occur when your child inhales dander or it touches her skin; and her sensitivity to it can range from mild to severe.
According to Dr. Goldstein, "Dander is light, so it stays airborne for a long time, but it's also sticky, so it adheres to anything from clothes to curtains." Dander is difficult to avoid completely, because it can easily be transported to areas that don't even have animals.
The Truth About Cats & Dogs
Cats and dogs aren't the only culprits--anything with fur or feathers can cause a reaction, says Dr. Goldstein. (Despite the myth, there are no specific breeds of cats or dogs that are less likely to cause irritation.) A pet bird can be less bothersome to an allergic child because birds spend most of their time in a cage; just be sure the child isn't the one who's responsible for cleaning the cage. If your little one wants a pet, your safest picks are fish and reptiles.