The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not adding a cat to your family until you're sure your baby doesn't have allergies. However, what if you already have a loving cat? Before placing a “free to good home” ad for Whiskers in your local newspaper, make your baby an appointment with an allergist.
The symptoms your baby experiences depends on the severity of the cat allergy. The most common symptoms are sneezing and a runny nose, according to MayoClinic.com. Nasal congestion, postnasal drip, coughing, dark circles under the eyes, wheezing and difficulties sleeping are additional symptoms. Nasal congestion can block both nasal passages, causing your baby to breathe from the mouth. Contact dermatitis from a cat allergy includes redness, hives and itchy skin.
Allergies appear first during infancy or childhood and are more common in families with a history of allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Your baby's immune system is equipped to attack foreign substances, but if he has allergies, certain triggers cause the immune system to overreact. Cat allergies are caused by proteins that usually are harmless in the cat's dander, saliva or urine. As your baby inhales the cat dander, the immune system attacks and causes an inflammatory response of the lungs and nasal passages, according to MayoClinic.com. Even if you remove the cat from your home, dander and fluid can stick to walls, clothing and other surfaces in your home for several months, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
A skin test and blood test can confirm or deny a cat allergy. In some cases, pollen or mold gets trapped in your cat's fur and is released into the air during petting or brushing sessions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The allergist may suggest removing the baby from your home for a few days to see if allergy symptoms subside. This may seem obvious, but be sure to stay somewhere that doesn't have a cat. Temporarily removing the cat from the home is ineffective, since the dander remains.
The United States Food and Drug Administration advises parents never to give children under the age of two any cough and cold products containing decongestants or antihistamines without consulting with a pediatrician. Infants can use a cool mist humidifier to reduce congestion by reducing swelling of the nasal passages. Saline nasal drops and suctioning your baby's nostrils with a bulb syringe also provide comfort to a congested baby. Discuss with your baby's pediatrician the use of allergy shots, which are small injections of the cat allergen that help your baby develop a tolerance to the proteins in cat dander. Do not allow the cat in rooms where you're baby sleeps, and clean the bedroom thoroughly and often. Its best to remove carpeting in the home, but if this is not an option, vacuum with a high efficiency particulate air filter and steam clean the carpet often. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America suggests covering bedroom vents with cheesecloth. If your baby's allergies are severe, a new home for your cat is the best option.
- American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology: Allergy Treatment
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: Pet Allergies
- American Academy of Pediatrics: When Pets Are the Problem
- Mayo Clinic: Pet Allergy
- US Food and Drug Administration: An Important FDA Reminder for Parents: Do Not Give Infants Cough and Cold Products Designed for Older Children
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.