Pets for Kids with Allergies

Tips on coping with pet allergies.

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If your children want a pet but you've ruled it out because one of them has allergies, take heart. Many people with mild to moderate pet allergies can still snuggle up to a furry friend and enjoy the benefits of an animal companion.

While there are no "non-allergenic" breeds of dogs or cats, some are less likely than others to trigger an allergic reaction, says Dr. Anne Livingston, an allergist in Syracuse, New York. That's because some breeds produce less dander -- the microscopic particles that can cause allergic reactions.

Dogs Females tend to produce fewer allergens than males. So do smaller dogs. Specific breeds that are better for people with allergies include the basenji, the soft-coated Wheaten terrier, the bichon frise, the poodle, and the Chinese crested.

Labradoodles have been touted by many breeders as causing fewer allergies. So have other poodle mixes. However, it's best to spend some time with one first to see how you react.

Cats The Siberian, Devon rex, Cornish rex, and sphynx (a mostly hairless breed) are the best bets because they shed very little.

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Tips to Reduce Reactions

  • Keep the pet out of the bedroom. Designate one place for your pet to sleep and cover the area with a towel. Wash the towel weekly.
  • Buy a HEPA-equipped (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter) vacuum cleaner. Also try putting cheesecloth over your child's bedroom vent to keep out allergens.
  • Bathe, brush, and groom your pet regularly.
  • Have your child wash his hands and face after petting or nuzzling an animal.
  • If you get a pet early enough in a child's life, it may prevent the same allergies it causes. The Medical College of Georgia found that kids exposed to indoor pets from infancy were less than half as likely to develop common allergies than kids who weren't exposed to pets. "It's almost like childhood immunizations," says Marty Becker, a veterinarian and author of The Healing Power of Pets.

Originally published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, April 2005.

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