pet allergies: what causes pet allergies?

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.

But Wait, You Don't Have a Pet

Even if you don't have a pet, your allergic preschooler could come into contact with someone else's--at a friend's or relative's house or in the local park.

"Obviously, you need to tell your preschooler to avoid touching furry animals," says Gwen Carlton. "But they're still likely to have an emotional response to a cute animal and want to hug and kiss it anyway." While school-age children are likely to comprehend their allergies, younger kids may not, so you can expect slip ups.

Jessica Brown
Important Disclaimer: This information is not meant as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a doctor with questions about your or your child's condition. does not recommend or endorse specific tests, products, procedures, opinions, or other information provided by any sponsors or other third parties. Please also see's Terms of Use.
nick jr. video