In searching for the triggers of our daughters eczema we tried many things. Dust mite proof pillows, hypoallergenic washing powder, UV light treating her bed clothes, HEPA filter vacuum cleaners, food allergy tests and many more.
In all the time she was suffering we never considered pets. Maybe we just never thought of it or maybe subconsciously we did not want to consider it. Of course we vacuumed regularly with a very expensive eczema approved vacuum cleaner so that rules out the cat doesn’t it?. Well actually no. Cats shed fur (covered in saliva) skin (dander) and even leave traces of urine around the house. These three things are all potential allergens and these allergens get everywhere. They even float around in the air so no amount of vacuuming will totally eliminate it.
It was only when nature intervened that we discovered how much of a trigger our cat was. The cat still relatively young unexpectedly died. Around this time we had got our daughters eczema under control with proper use of steroids and a good emolient. In the worst times she had been 90% covered in weepy eczema but now we had it under control it was possible to see the triggers much more easily.
Our cat had gone but all our relatives still have cats. We could go weeks without any new outbreaks but then a few visits to relatives would bring the eczema back.
We have taught our daughter not to touch the cats which helps but inevitably she will still have an outbreak if she is in the same environment as a cat.
I appreciate this is bad news for anyone reading this blog who has a child with eczema and a much loved pet. It is a very difficult decision to make. However I believe the only real way of proving if your child has a pet allergy or not is to take the pet out of their environment probably for a couple of months. That is how long it is likely to take to clear the house of the allergens left behind by the pet.
This is quite a drastic and upsetting thing to have to do so make sure you have tried every other avenue first. Most avenues are covered in the many other blogs I have written but in particular check that you have eliminated food allergies and that staphlococcus is under control.
If you can persuade a relative or friend to look after the pet for a couple of months that is ideal. (Unfortunately to make sure the experiment is effective your child should not visit the pet since its new home is also contaminated.)
Of course you may find that the eczema does not resolve even with the pet gone. Then you have to decide if you bring the pet back. If you see no improvement or change in pattern at all then the pet is probably not a trigger so its safe to allow them home. However at least you will have the peace of mind knowing that your pet is not a trigger. If the eczema does improve then its even tougher as bringing the pet back into the home is not really an option.
Our daughter is now free of eczema most of the time. She does have other triggers, some known some unknown but the outbreaks are very minor and we very rarely have to use steroids these days. We don’t even have to use emolients any more. Although we were upset about the death of our cat it gave our daughter a new lease of life and we are very happy that her suffering has ended.