Can children with eczema have pets?

We all love pets, especially children. They are a great way of passing time and having fun, while at the same time helping your child learn responsibility. Choosing a family pet when your child has eczema has comes with extra considerations, because pet dander and other allergens or irritants can potentially trigger eczema and aggravate flare ups. However, making sure you moisturise, wash away irritants with soaks and keeping the house clean can make having a pet manageable for you and your little one’s eczema! 

Which pets can trigger eczema?

Any animal that sheds pet dander has the potential to trigger eczema flare ups in your child. Dander is material shed from the body of various animals that have fur, hair, or feathers. You may have heard of ‘hypoallergenic pets’ being better for your eczema child, however there is no proof that these animals are better for children with allergies because all pets have the potential to transfer dander and saliva to your child.

Research on pets and eczema

Studies conducted by Epstein, which was featured in ‘The Journal of Paediatrics’ showed that dog ownership among young children who tested positive for dog allergies, decreased the risk of developing eczema when they are older. Six hundred and thirty six children at risk of developing allergies, living in Cincinnati were collected and results showed that those with dogs were less likely to develop allergies compared to those who did not own a dog.  Doctors call this the hygiene hypothesis, where the theory is that being exposed to germs when a child is young strengthens the immune system.

Although research found this data for dogs, there was not very much information on whether cats act the same way. Studies showed that children who owned a cat before the age of one, who were also tested positive for allergies, were much more likely to develop atopic eczema than those who did not have a cat. If your child is allergic to cats, living with one may make them more likely to get eczema flare ups. Experts say that more investigations need to be administered on the positives and negatives of owning different pets while you have a child with atopic eczema.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, eczema flare ups can worsen with triggers such as allergens and pet dander (pet saliva, urine or skin flakes), and not always just the pet’s fur. Since research is still not 100% conclusive, it may be safe to expand your options and buy a pet with no fur instead (maybe a goldfish?). You can also spend time with the pet you are considering buying and see if your child’s symptoms worsen, and then make a decision.

Tips for living with a pet

If you suspect that your pet is aggravating your child’s eczema, here are some tips to help minimise flare ups:

  • Vacuum and dust regularly to get rid of pet dander and fur, as well as any dust mites that might be roaming around
  • Keep your pet out of bedrooms
  • Wash the pet bedding routinely
  • Bathe and groom your pet regularly to get rid of allergens that may be on them. It is best to do it outside to minimise contact with your child.
  • Make sure to wash your child’s hands after they have finished playing with the pets. Regular bath time is important to cleanse the skin especially after your child has come into contact with irritants and allergens.
  • Always remember to moisturise to keep the skin soft and hydrated!

This blog post was brought to you and your family with love from Julia and the itchy baby co. team x.

Disclaimer: Information provided is of a general nature only, and you should always consult your medical professional.