Less Common Allergies: Environmental & Pet

Environmental Allergies

Many children who have life-threatening food allergies also suffer from various pollen allergies.  Some children are immediately allergic to a substance on their first exposure, and others take years to develop an allergy.

When my son first touched a dandelion, he swelled up with hives.  This is an unusual reaction – but he has had many of those unusual reactions!

Most children, however, take years to develop pollen allergies.  It takes many exposures to weeds, for example, to develop a reaction of a runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.  Most allergists won’t skin prick test for pollen allergies (trees, grasses, weeds) until a child is 6 years old.

Our allergist has told us that children with severe food allergies are much more likely to develop pollen allergies as they grow older.  The immune system is already compromised, and more allergies are likely to show up.

Asthma may also be prevalent at certain times of year when grass pollen is high, for example.

The good news is that allergy shots may help relieve the symptoms of pollen allergies, as will many good antihistamines available over the counter or through a prescription from your allergist.

We have found that saline nasal sprays and washes do a lot in combating pollen allergies. Taking a bath or shower at night to wash away the day, and putting on clean clothes for bedtime helps tremendously also. Keeping windows closed, and the air conditioning on in the summer will help to filter out pollens.

If your child has an allergy to ragweed, be careful of the following foods that may cross-react with ragweed:  bananas, cantaloupe, cucumbers, honeydew melon, zucchini squash and watermelon.  These foods are in the same botanical family as ragweed, and when ragweed is prevalent your child may experience a more severe reaction if eating these foods.


Another environmental hazard is mold. Allergies to molds can create havoc in damp environments. Mold can be present in old homes, in basements, and bathrooms even in relatively arid climates.

My daughter had issues with the elementary school building and molds when she was young. Her classroom was situated above a room that was flooded and began to grow mold. She had four rounds of bronchitis that school year, and turned out to be allergic to mold when we had her allergy tested!

Pet Allergies

Even infants can have allergies to pets – dogs, cats, gerbils, birds, hamsters, rabbits, horses…the list goes on and on. Fur and feathers can create allergic symptoms or asthmatic episodes in children with allergies. These symptoms can be mild to quite severe.

Some families have removed the pet from the household for a week or two in an attempt to determine if their child has an allergy. The problem with this is that research has discovered that cat dander, especially, can remain in a household for up to two years! The best way to determine if your child has an allergy to your pet is to have an allergy testing completed by a Board Certified Allergist.

We didn’t face the hardship of having to decide what to do when a child is allergic to the family pet, since we didn’t have a dog anymore. Some families of allergic children have had to give away their pet, because their child’s allergy has been so severe.

There are some people who claim to have an allergy free dog.  I suppose they mean that it doesn’t shed hair.  However, all pets have dander, saliva and urine and these are the source of the allergy!  There may be some dog and cat breeds that incite less allergic reactions, but this only holds true if your child does not have a high allergic reaction to the pet.  In the case of high allergic reactions, no pet is hypo-allergenic.

Even with Benadryl®, our son would get swollen eyes within an hour of exposure to a dog or a cat. He began having asthma like symptoms every time he would get a cold.  It became obvious that he could no longer go into anyone’s house that had a dog.  Even though he scored a zero (0) on the allergy tests to cats initially, he began to develop an allergy to cats.  It escalated to the point where his eyes swelled shut one night at a friend’s house after 10 minutes of exposure to cats! We had to completely stopped his exposure to animals when he was young.

Allergy shots can help mitigate allergic reactions to pets, however it may take years to develop immunity. Our son received allergy shots for 7 years, and it really helped all of his allergies – pets and the environmental ones – to decrease.