All About Marie

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Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at www.blogtalkradio.com/petplace; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 18 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of one baby boy, and pet parent of three cats, two dogs, and a cockatoo.

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Child Allergic to Cats



Dear Marie,
My son was recently diagnosed with allergies to cats. He’s 10 years old and we've had cats all of his life. For the past couple of years, he’s had chronic mild congestion and itchy eyes. It’s been nothing that has really bothered him. We just decided that we wanted to try and figure out what was going on once and for all. We were very surprised when the test results came out slightly positive for allergies to cats. I guess this is something that can develop over time. Long story short – my son’s doctor basically told us to get rid of our cats! In fact, he went on to imply that if we didn't, we weren't very good parents because we weren't putting our son’s health at the top of our priorities! I am furious with him – but at the same time, he really got to me. I am feeling guilty.

The thing is, our cats our part of our family and I don’t think he understands that, or he thinks it’s just silly. My son would be devastated if we got rid of our cats. I remember you wrote something about allergies in the past. I am hoping you can talk about that again. There has to be a way that our son and our cats can be together. Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.
Alana, Irvine

Dear Alana,
It always amazes me that in this day and age, where the human-animal bond is recognized by most experts as being important to health and well-being, that many doctors will tell newly diagnosed allergy patients to dump their pets! A child who has developed a bond with a pet would indeed be devastated if that advice is followed. Not only will he suffer grief as a result of the loss of his beloved companions, he will feel to blame (and guilty) for this drastic measure. That is a tremendous consequence and one that will cause far more harm than the allergy symptoms that you've described.

There are so many things that pet owners can do to reduce allergens in the environment – and none of these actions involve getting rid of any four-legged family members.

First, have your house steam cleaned. This is a safe, chemical-free way of eliminating allergens that are already in your home. Then, be diligent with vacuuming. This means carpet, furniture, all the corners of every room, walls, etc. You’ll need to use the hand tools to get all the nooks and crannies. This is a big job if you haven’t vacuumed this way before, but once you get past the first time, it will be much easier and quicker after that, especially if you vacuum on a daily basis.

Invest in a couple of high quality HEPA air purifiers. These devices work great and really do clean the air. You’ll notice allergy relief in your son almost immediately once these are up and running. Be sure to change the filters according to the directions.

Teach your son to wash his hands frequently, especially after playing with or petting your cats. It’s also important that he pays attention to what his hands are doing. A lot of kids will rub their eyes without thinking about it. Your son will want to keep his hands away from his face and eyes. This will take some practice and frequent reminders.

If your son sleeps with the kitties, this should probably stop. In fact, his bedroom should be a cat-free zone. I am not saying that he should not be around the cats or that he should stop handling them; but having at least one room in the house that remains mostly allergen-free is a very good thing – especially the room where your son spends all his sleeping hours.

Finally, the most important step involves the use of a product that I highly recommend. It’s called Allerpet/C. It’s a fairly inexpensive product and so easy to use. A lot of people think you need to bathe cats regularly if you are an allergy sufferer. But actually, all you need to do is regularly comb your cat and then apply the Allerpet/C with a microfiber cloth directly to your cat's coat. The application process is fairly enjoyable for the cat. It’s like a massage. You’ll want to use strokes that go both with and against the direction of the fur growth. You only need to apply the Allerpet/C weekly. But you should comb your cat daily with a fine-toothed comb and clean the comb after each use.

This seems like a lot of work, I’m sure. But allergy sufferers who love their pets have developed systems that work for them and become fairly simple routines. Anything new takes patience. But once you get your own system working, it will be worth it for everyone.
Best of luck to you and your family.

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