Allergies & Animals

Also below:
Rabbit-related Allergies?
Kids' Best Friends: Children, Allergies & Pets

A constant question heard at Red Door: "My husband [or wife or child] has allergies. Do we have to give up our pet?" The answer is, "Definitely not."

There are now many ways for people with allergies to live healthy lives with their animals. It is no longer necessary to give up your animals because of allergies.

Unfortunately, most people with allergies react to many different things - dust, pollen, mold, and pet dander, to name just a few. Eliminating just one of these allergens will not necessarily solve your allergy and/or breathing problems.

Here are a few suggestions to help you and your animals stay together - and to breathe easier. These suggestions will help with all air-borne allergies.

  • Install a HEPA Air Filter in your furnace. If you have forced air heating, have your air ducts cleaned once a year.

  • Buy HEPA Air Purifiers and use one in every room. Portable air purifiers are available at Target and other stores for $35-$90. These filters remove 99.9% of allergens from indoor air and are recommended by the American Lung Association.

  • Keep animals out of the bedroom and off the bed.

  • Reduce the amount of carpeting and upholstery in your home. Dust and pet dander attach themselves to carpeting, draperies, and bedding. Go with hard wood floors instead of carpeting. Provide pets with their own washable bedding. Keep pets off the furniture.

  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a built-in HEPA air filter at least twice a week.

  • Wash your bedding and linens in hot water [140 degrees] at least twice a month.

  • Experiment with hypoallergenic bedding, towels, and pillows.

  • Keep your bathroom, kitchen, and basement dry, Install a de-humidifier. Many allergens thrive in damp, warm places.

  • Use a vapor steam cleaner to clean your home. This has been proven helpful in removing cat dander.)

  • Brush your animals regularly and wear a mask while doing so. Ask your local pet store about products like Allerpet that reduce dander and shedding. Run a damp cloth over your pet; this is helpful in removing dander.

  • Discuss treatment options with your doctor. Try medication.There are many excellent allergy treatments available—both over the counter and by prescription—that can relief your symptoms.

Rabbit-related Allergies?

Having allergic reactions to your pet rabbits? True allergies to rabbits are extremely rare. Most often, people are reacting to the rabbit's hay, not the animal itself. Here are some rabbit-specific suggestions:

  • Instead of having the hay loose in a pen, litterbox or cage, try containing the hay. We've found that filling empty facial tissue boxes with hay is an excellent solution. It prevents the hay & grass dust from becoming air-borne.

  • Try to have someone else fill the hay boxes and sweep up the hay. If that is not possible, use a face mask when sweeping up hay or filling hay boxes.

  • Try changing brands of hay. Some brands of hay are much dustier than others. Also try another kind of hay, such as substituting orchard grass for timothy hay. Red Door recommends hay from Oxbow Hay Company (

  • Use all the suggestions—such as HEPA filters and consulting with your doctor—mentioned above.

Again, most people with allergies are allergic to many different things. You do not have to give up your animals because of allergies.

Kids' Best Friends: Children, Allergies & Pets

Having a child with allergies—even allergies to cats and dogs—does not mean that the family must give up the household pets. In fact, new studies show that children's health may be better off growing up with animals rather than being isolated from them.

Recent studies now indicate that children who live with pets from birth on may develop less severe allergies than children who are isolated from animals in their early years. For more information on these studies, conducted by researchers of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and the Medical College in Georgia in 2000, you can check with the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (

Consult with your child's allergist or pediatrician. Zyrtec, a prescription drug for allergies, can be prescribed for children as young as 2 years old.