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Kids and Pet Allergies

Runny nose, watery eyes -- could your child be allergic to your newest family member? With an estimated 10 percent of people who have animal allergies in the U.S., according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it's a possibility, especially if the tendency runs in your family. Pet allergies also appear more frequently in children with asthma and can aggravate this condition, says Vincent Tubiolo, M.D., an allergist in Santa Barbara, California, who specializes in allergy immunology.

So what should you do if the furry friend your child adores causes allergy attacks? It's usually the pet's dander -- skin and hair scales -- that triggers the reaction, so keep the animal well-groomed and healthy to reduce dander production. "Keep contact to a minimum," Dr. Tubiolo advises, noting that you may require a different kind of pet. Remember, he adds, all animals with fur, even "hairless" ones, have the potential to cause allergies. To see whether your child has a pet allergy before you get an animal, talk to your pediatrician, who may suggest a visit to an allergist. Fairly inexpensive tests can determine your child's sensitivity.

Originally published in the March 2001 issue of Parents magazine.

Updated May 2010