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Dog Allergy In Babies: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment And Prevention

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Animal allergies, like those of dogs and cats, affect 10 to 20% of people worldwide, and it has become a public health concern (1).

Some parents avoid having pets for the first few years of their children. However, if the pet is already there by the time the baby is born or you have adopted a dog for various reasons, then it is good to know if your baby is allergic to dogs.

In this MomJunction post, we tell you about the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of dog allergies in babies.

Can Babies Be Allergic To Dogs?

Yes. Just like adults, even babies can be allergic to dogs and other animals. However, it is not necessary for all babies to be allergic.

Sometimes, the baby might show allergic symptoms for some other allergen, but you might mistake it as an allergy to dogs. Therefore, it is good to see a pediatrician to confirm the exact cause of allergy.

What Causes Dog Allergies In Babies?

The human immune system is designed to fight bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens (2). However, in some individuals, the immunity may not differentiate between pathogens and agents like a dog’s dander(dead skin), fur, saliva, and urine. The body takes them to be harmful foreign bodies and keeps up a fight i.e., called immune response, thus causing an allergic reaction. Mostly, it is an acute type of reaction, which means it shows immediate response, symptoms, and signs.

There is no variety of dog, which can be hypoallergenic or non-allergic. Any breed of dog can be allergic. The following are some triggers of dog allergies in humans.

  • It is believed that a dog’s fur causes dog allergies in babies. But fur alone is not responsible for it. The fur could contain proteins from pet dander, saliva, and urine that can also lead to allergies.
  • The fur can also carry other common allergens like dust and pollen (2). Each breed of dog has a different level of allergy-causing potential, but even hairless dogs might cause allergies in babies (3).
  • The dog allergens are present on the furniture, floor, walls, and other surfaces of the house. They easily get attached to surfaces like curtains, upholstery, etc. and do not lose their potential to cause allergy for a long time.
  • Dog allergens could be present in houses where there are no pets since people can carry dog allergen on their clothing. These allergens spread in the air when the dog is groomed, patted, etc.
  • The allergens that are settled on surfaces might stir up again while dusting and vacuuming. Once the allergens are suspended in the air, they tend to remain there, thus causing symptoms for a long time (2).
  • The allergens persist in the house even when the pet is not around.
  • A home ventilation system or an air conditioner could also circulate the allergen throughout the house. It can happen even when the dog is restricted to a single room.

Continuous exposure to a dog’s allergens might lead to allergic sensitivity and progress to a full-fledged allergic reaction. It might exhibit allergic rhinitis or asthma (1).

How Can You Tell If A Baby Is Allergic To Dogs?

If your baby exhibits one or more of the following symptoms after exposure to a dog or dog allergen in the air, then it might be dog allergy (4).

  • Itchy, watery, or red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Congestion
  • Itchy skin
  • Redness of skin
  • Hives or bumps on the skin
  • Wheezing
  • Labored breathing
  • Asthma

Treatment Of Dog Allergies In Babies

In any case of allergy, best treatment is prevention of the trigger (allergen). In this case, the trigger is a dog. However, if you do not want to part with your pets, talk to a healthcare provider for a way to manage the allergy in your baby.

The doctor may suggest one or more of the following (4).

  1. Antihistamine medicines might be prescribed to treat allergic reactions in babies. However, avoid giving any over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. The doctor will decide the dosage of the medicine after taking into account the baby’s age, body weight, and severity of symptoms.
  1. Steroid nasal sprays, antihistamines or other oral medications are usually used for nasal symptoms such as a running or a blocked nose. Antihistamines are also used for eye symptoms such as watery, itchy, or red eye.
  1. Immunotherapy is usually used for grown-ups. In this procedure, the individual is administered shots of low amounts of allergens over a long period. It could eventually reduce the symptoms of dog allergy. Immunotherapy is usually not used for babies (5).

Tips To Prevent Dog Allergies In Infants

When preventing exposure to the dog is not possible, the following steps might help prevent exacerbation of the symptoms (4).

  • Limit the dog’s presence to only one room in the house. If possible, maintain a dedicated kennel or room for the dog outside the house.
  • Keep the dog away from the baby’s bedroom or any other room where the baby spends most of their time.
  • Use dust mite protectors for the baby’s mattress and sheet.
  • Replace upholstery in the house with easily washable materials.
  • Remove the carpets from the house if possible. If that is not possible, then replace the regular carpet with a low pile carpet and steam dry it regularly.
  • Wash your baby’s hands with soap and water every time they touch the dog.
  • Use a double or a microfilter bag vacuum cleaner.
  • Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners to remove the allergens from the air.
  • Giving your dog a bath at least once a week can reduce airborne dog allergen.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is allergy to dogs genetic?

Most of the allergies have genetic predisposal. Similarly, dog allergies can also run in families. However, if you are allergic to a dog, it is not necessary the baby will be allergic too. Some babies are not allergic to dogs, despite having at least one parent with a dog allergy.

2. Can babies grow out of dog allergies?

Some babies outgrow the allergy, while some may not (6). Studies show that keeping a dog in the early years of the baby reduces the chances of developing an allergy later in life (7).

Pets are adorable and become an indispensable part of the family. If you suspect dog allergy in your baby, try and reduce their exposure to the dog. Always keep the prescribed medicines within reach to tackle a sudden episode of severe allergy. If the baby’s allergy is not manageable, then you might have to consider finding a new home for your dog.

Do you have an experience to share about dog allergies in babies? Let us know in the comment section below.

References:

1. Sanny K. Chan and Donald Y. M. Leung,Dog and Cat Allergies: Current State of Diagnostic Approaches and Challenges; Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research
2. Pet Allergy: Are You Allergic to Dogs or Cats?; Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
3. Pet Allergens; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
4. PET ALLERGY; American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
5. When Pets Are the Problem; American Academy of Pediatrics
6. Coping with allergies; San Antonio government
7. Bill Hesselmaret al, Pet-keeping in early life reduces the risk of allergy in a dose-dependent fashion; U.S. National Library of Medicine

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