Dealing with Allergies and Keeping the Pet

Jane Szondy

I was once a 10 year old allergic child with a doctor telling my mother to get rid of my dog. It was one of the scariest moments of my life and one that I still recall (and I'm 43 now). In those days, they didn't have the fabulous antihistamines they have now (the ones they did have put me in a constant sleepy state). Since I threatened to run away if she did get rid of my dog, my mother said we would have to do all the other things the doctor suggested: no chocolate, peanut butter, no books or stuffed animals in my room (dust collectors). The doctor never suggested shots, since they weren't as effective as they apparently are now.

I currently live in a house with hardwood floors that are mopped/vacuumed daily. I have leather furniture (easy to clean), plastic covers on my mattresses (under the sheets that I change twice a week), spray anti-dustmite spray on my mattresses regularly and run hepa filter air cleaners in my house constantly, all the allergy stuff they tell you to do. I have 6 cats, 2
beautiful golden retrievers and wouldn't change my way of life for anything. The dogs are bathed once a week, as are the cats (even though the cats don't like it much). I know some people use dander shampoo on their pets and that helps with the allergies also (bathing once a week seems to work fine for me).

Here's what I would do (and this is 33 years of allergic/asthmatic experience talking):

1. Take your child to an allergist that will test for ALL allergies. Make it clear to the doctor that you want to do everything humanly possible to keep the dog. Make sure it's the dog that's making the allergies worse and
not other airborne things (dust mites, pollen, etc.). FWIW: When my mother had me tested, they discovered I was more allergic to certain trees than my dog - so my mother removed the tree in the backyard, closed the bedroom window facing the garden and my allergies got better. I got to keep my dog. I later added cats to the collection.

2. Bathe your dog once a week, perhaps using one of those allergy shampoos that cut down the dander. Brush the coat out daily (do it outside). Don't let your child around you when you bathe or brush out the dog and wash your hands afterwards (before touching your child). Wash the dog brush out after each brushing and keep it in a container out of the open air.

3. Diet. Watch your child's diet, try to eliminate dairy for a while and see if that helps cut down on the mucous and allergies. Find another calcium source through spinach, etc. I cannot ingest dairy - it makes my allergies/asthma worse. I also don't drink wine unless it's organic (because of the sulfites triggering my allergies), but this is a non-issue with your child, but anything else that contains sulfites could make allergies worse. Go organic whenever possible - the less pesticides you're ingesting - the better for the immune system. Also, work at improving the immune system with vitamins and other holistic methods. No processed foods! The stronger the immune system, the better the body tolerates allergens. That's what allergies are - the immune system going overboard trying to deal with the attacks of pollens, mold, whatever. Telling your child she can't have fun foods may be a drag to her (oh how I remember that part), but the payoffs are keeping the dog in the family!

4. Bedding: Your child's bedding needs to be washed in hot water, the majority of allergies stem from the bedroom. If you have white sheets, add bleach. If they are colored sheets, add color-safe bleach but wash in hot water
regardless. It's the hot water that kills the mites and mold. I have several quilts that I rotate over my bedding, completely covering my bed, so that cat/dog hair gets eliminated by just putting a fresh quilt on the bed and throwing the dirty one in the wash. I have ALOT of quilts for this reason. Overstock.com is my friend. : ) Buy some dustmite spray and spray it all
over the mattress/boxspring. When it drys, vacuum it up. It helps kill the dustmites! Buy plastic casings with zippers (you can get them at any linen store) for your mattress and boxspring. Buy new pillows, or wash the ones you have in bleach and hot water. Change the sheets twice a week. Curtains need to be cotton (nothing that is dry cleaned) or remove them and just have blinds (which are cleaned once a week with a damp sponge). Dry cleaning chemicals are horribly toxic and can be slowly ingested into the system if you're sleeping in a room with dry cleaned stuff in it.

5. Dustproof: Remove the books and stuffed animals from the room for a while and slowly (after about 2 months) introduce them to your child's room a few at a time to see if they make the allergies worse. If they make her sneeze more - they have to stay out of the room (or in a glass enclosed case). I had a curio cabinet of stuffed animals in my room as a child. Now, I have glass doored bookcases.

6. Clean: Buy a hepa filter air cleaner (very important) and run it CONSTANTLY in the bedroom (you can find them at Sears - get the quietest model) for your child's room. After you've thoroughly cleaned the room - and what I mean by that is remove any dust catchers (toys, books, knick knacks), "wet dust" everywhere - moist sponge wiped along cabinets, floors, walls, bed frame, lamp, floorboards (where the floor meets the walls - big places for dust bunnies and mites), window sills, tops of window sills, ceiling lighting (including the tops of the lightbulbs) and thoroughly wash all bedding like I
talked about earlier. Wash the walls with a mild solution of water and bleach. If you have carpet in the bedroom, get it steam cleaned or better yet, remove it (I don't have any carpet in my house - you'd be amazed how much it helps your
health to remove it - and if you knew all the toxic chemicals in carpet, you'd never have it in your house again - cotton area rugs can be purchased and then replaced when they get too dirty). Vacuum everyday, carpet or not
carpet. Keep the bedroom door closed with the filter running and the windows closed constantly (to prevent pollens from getting in). NO PETS IN THE BEDROOM during this purification time (and probably through most of your child's
life). If you have forced air/heat leading to your daughter's bedroom, buy a hepa filter for the forced air unit. You need to see if you can get your child's health under control first. If you can, try to clean the rest of your house in this manner. But the bedroom comes first. This way of keeping the bedroom should become a way of life for your child for the rest of her life -
especially if she wants pets in it.

7. Pollen/Mold: Have you had a lot of rain lately? If so, you're dealing with not only pollens in the air (from plants blossoming), but possibly mold in your house. That's my problem right now - the mold - since you can't see it - it's in the walls sometimes - so if you can get someone to check for signs of mold in your house, great. The number one thing that kills mold -bleach.

Everything I've just described is written up in all the allergy books, etc. I know it's extreme measures. But we're talking about keeping the dog. It does work! The trick is to eliminate any other possibilities of allergic reaction, thus throwing suspicion off the dog. If your child gets better after doing everything I've list above, it's not necessarily the dog causing the allergies. If you find out your daughter is definitely allergic to the dog, you could probably still keep the dog if you did everything I've listed. It can't hurt to try....: )