If I Have Asthma, Can I Keep My Pet?
Lots of people with asthma are allergic to animals. Some can keep their pets — and others can't. It depends on a person's asthma and if having a pet (like a dog, cat, or even a parrot!) makes symptoms worse.
What's an Animal Allergen?
Things that make asthma worse are called allergens. Some people have animal allergens, which means they're allergic to the proteins found in:
- animal dander (skin flakes, kind of like animal dandruff)
- animal saliva (spit)
- animal urine (pee)
Besides carrying dander, spit, or pee, animal fur or feathers also can collect other things that can make asthma symptoms worse, like:
- dust mites (tiny bugs)
- pollen (from plants)
And any animal that lives in a cage — from birds to gerbils — will have droppings that get mold and dust mites on them too.
How Can I Deal With Animal Allergens?
If your pet triggers your asthma, these tips might help:
- Start taking allergy medicine or getting allergy shots in addition to your asthma medicine.
- Keep your pet out of your room.
- Play with your pet but try not hug it or kiss it.
- Clean your room really well and get rid of any rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Keep your room free of dust.
- Have someone else wash and brush your pet every week (cats as well as dogs).
- Make sure everyone in your family washes their hands after touching the pet.
If you have a bird, gerbil, or other small caged animal, move the cage out of your room. Make sure your pet stays in its cage at all times. Have someone else clean the cage daily. Also make sure that the pet's cage isn't near any drafts. If the cage is sitting next to a heating or cooling vent, it could blow pet allergens through the room.
What If I Have to Say Goodbye to My Pet?
If you try all these things and are still having lots of asthma flare-ups, you might need to find another home for your pet. You may feel lots of different emotions — from sadness to anger. These feelings might be so strong that they make it hard to eat, sleep, or concentrate. This is a natural part of losing something that is precious to you.
How you handle things depends on your personality. You may want to be so busy so that you aren't home to miss your pet, or you may want to spend time every day looking at pictures of you together.
There is no right or wrong way to handle feelings of loss. You might find it helpful to talk about it with friends, family, or a counselor.
It takes months for an animal's allergens to leave the house, so it might take a while before your symptoms improve.
What About Other Animals?
Even if you no longer have a pet at home, you're still going to be around animals from time to time. If you go to house where there is a pet, take any prescription allergy medicine before going and have your quick-relief medicine with you.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995- The Nemours Foundation. KidsHealth® is a registered trademark of The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
Images sourced by The Nemours Foundation and Getty Images.