cats and asthma

For children with asthma, you never know what is the trigger that can cause an asthma attack. Some children are allergic to dust mites, pollen or mould. However, there are cases where children are allergic to cats’ fur or dander (dry skin flakes from cats/dogs). 

The Link Between Cats & Asthma 

Of all the pet allergies, allergic reactions to cats are the most common. Even though not all asthma conditions are caused by allergies, however, 90% of children who have asthma, have allergies as well. 

Children who are sensitive to proteins (allergens) may experience an allergic reaction. Usually, cats’ allergens can be found in their dander. The cat’s dried skin flakes usually linger in the air or get attached to the cat’s fur, urine and saliva. 

The allergens will attach itself to microscopic particles in the air and these particles will end up on surface areas around the house. Hence, it can be very difficult to avoid cat allergens. 

If you have a beloved cat at home, don’t start fretting. It can be devastating to find out that your cat might be a trigger cause for your child’s asthma. 

But, not all hope is lost. Cats are part of the family and it is important to take extra care and measures to decrease your child’s exposure to a cat’s allergen. 

5 ways to manage the cat’s allergen

  1. Vacuum Frequently: Vacuuming the house can help to control the amount of cat’s dander and fur around the house. Clean the furniture frequently especially those with upholstered fabric that traps allergens. Consider changing your floor tiles to wood, tile or linoleum where are easier to clean. 
  2. Bathe your Cat: Bathe your cat at least once per week to help reduce cat allergen. You might want to use shampoos and sprays that help neutralize the dander. 
  3. Keep the bedroom allergen-free: Keep your cat out of your child’s bedroom. Create a safe space for your child especially when he/she sleeps at night – where his allergies will not trigger a flare-up. It will also be great if your house has a centralised air-conditioning system with a filter. 
  4. Clear the litter box: Ensure that the cat’s litter is always cleared out and clean as the cat’s urine or faeces traps their dander. 
  5. Hand Hygiene: Remind your child to wash their hands frequently and not touch their face after playing with the cat. 

Saying Goodbye

It is never easy saying goodbye. If you have not seen improvement in your child’s asthma condition after trying all these ways, you might need to re-home your pet. It is okay if you feel sad, devastated or angry because there is no right way to express your loss. 

Talk to a professional counsellor or therapist about your own emotions or your child’s feelings. 

Reference List: 

  1. Fuld, Gilbert, and Elizabeth Matsui. “Cats and Children with Asthma.” HealthyChildren.org, 21 May 2018, www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/allergies-asthma/Pages/Cats-and-Children-with-Asthma.aspx.
  2. “If I Have Asthma, Can I Keep My Pet? (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth.” Edited by Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation, May 2017, kidshealth.org/en/teens/asthma-pet.html.
  3. Vann, Madeline R. “Living With Pets When You Have Asthma: Everyday Health.” Everyday Health, 1 Oct. 2013, www.everydayhealth.com/hs/allergic-asthma-in-adults/living-with-pets-and-asthma/.
  4. Jewell, Tim. “Cats and Asthma: What’s the Connection?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 9 May 2019, www.healthline.com/health/asthma/cats-and-asthma.