“Mommy, can I have a pet?” This question is usually recited in every household at least once during childhood. While most parents eventually give in to the request, as a parent of a child with allergies, you may have to make many choices in your child’s life to provide him with the best possible outcome for allergy management. Unfortunately, one of these choices may result in an unhappy child who cannot be like his peers and have a family pet. While your child may or may not understand the reasons why certain pets are acceptable additions to your family, it is important to stress the fact that this is not a punishment and together, try to discover alternatives to the situation.
First, consider discussing with your child’s physician the possible acquisition of non-contact animals. These are generally found in aquariums and are aquatic (no reptiles as their scales/skin can slough off and blow in the air). Crustaceans, fish, snails and sea monkeys are not physically handled and do not shed pet dander. While speaking with the doctor, inquire about outdoor animal activities and restrictions. Inside, air is not able to circulate as much as it does outdoors; thus making outside animal activities (zoos, farms, horse rides) a viable possibility.
If able to pursue outdoor animal-related activities, consider purchasing a zoo membership or animal care adoption. These will allow your child to have his name on an adopted animal, and while this pet can not be kept at home; your child’s animal will be at a “special” home. Also encourage your child to participate in assisting homeless animals at shelters by collecting food donations, educating others on the benefits of spaying and neutering and by donating some allowance money for animal rescue groups. You child will feel special knowing he is helping care for animals even though he is not physically able to have one.
For children with allergies, not being able to have a household pet can sometimes cause great sadness, anger and frustration, but with some creative thinking, parents can have their children fairly involved, either directly or indirectly in the lives of animals. Be sure to speak with your child’s doctor and as a family, come to an agreement that will satisfy both physical and emotional needs. Encourage your child to be proactive with his health and, as he becomes older, investigate allergy alternatives, rather than the restrictions; so your child can experience all life has to offer.