06 Jun Pets and eczema

Pets and eczema

Whether it’s a mutt with a waggy tail or a cute, cuddly kitty, pets can enhance our lives and be loyal companions. Pets are more than just fluffy bundles of joy, research shows that having a pet could be good for your physical, mental and emotional health.

People with pets do more exercise, have healthier hearts and suffer less from depression and anxiety. However, if you have eczema or an atopic tendency runs in the family you may worry that pets may inflame your skin. So, what is the truth about the relationship between pets and eczema?

Protective pets?

When it comes to eczema, pets may actually protect against developing the condition. However, not all animals produce the same results. Researchers discovered that in families that own a dog, children have a decreased risk of developing eczema. Families with a history of atopy and pet allergies may therefore get particular benefits from owning a dog. In a study, early dog ownership, decreased the risk of eczema in children with parents with dog allergies.

The news isn’t as positive for cat people. Having a cat at a young age appeared to increase the risk of developing the skin condition. A pet cat may not be a good idea for children genetically vulnerable to eczema. Scientists looked at infants with a faulty gene that predisposes to eczema. Babies with a skin protein gene mutation called FLG, which is thought to account for 11% of cases of the condition, were twice as likely to develop eczema in their first year. Having a cat significantly increased that risk- so, if you’re undecided about which pet to choose, it may be worth picking a pooch instead.

Allergic trigger

When you have a skin condition, our four-legged friends aren’t always good news. Many people with eczema find that flare-ups are triggered by allergens. Allergens are environmental substances that can start an allergic reaction and exacerbate eczema in those who are susceptible. Pet dander, which is flakes of dead skin cells from dogs and cats, is a common culprit. Proteins found in pet saliva and urine can also be a problem.

When you’re a pet lover, it can be frustrating to have your lifestyle choices controlled by your skin condition. If pets set your skin on fire, then it’s sensible to stay away if you can. However, for many people, pets are an important part of life. Friends and family may also have animals, so it’s helpful to find ways of preventing a flare-up and protecting your skin. Here are some tried and tested tips:

  • Wash your hands carefully after every contact with a pet.
  • Keep pets out of the bedroom and definitely off the bed.
  • Choose hard floors like wood or tiles, they’re easier to keep clean.
  • Keep the house clean, damp wiping hard surfaces.
  • Vacuum twice a week using a high-quality, bag-less device with an allergy filter.
  • Use washable pet blankets and beds – and keep them clean.
  • Avoid soft upholstered furniture, leather or vinyl is easier to keep clean. Vacuum your sofa regularly, especially if it’s the place your pet likes to snooze.
  • If soft, cuddly toys or unwashable clothing has been in contact with your pet, pop it into the freezer for 8 hours before using it again.
  • Ask a family member, or a professional, to groom your pet and empty the cat litter.
  • Moisturise your skin and maintain its barrier function by regularly using an emollient.
  • You may love your pet more than anything – but don’t let them lick or kiss you, their saliva may contain allergens.
  • Bathe your cats and dogs regularly (at least once weekly)

With a little care, you can protect your skin and enjoy spending time with your furry friend.

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