PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Children can be allergic to many things, but allergies to pets can be very challenging.
Shania Davenport was barely a year old when her allergies problems first appeared.
"She had a really bad rash on her hands and her stomach and then on her legs," said her mom, Nakia.
Doctors thought it might be eczema until tests showed Shania was allergic to cats.
And Nakia knew which cats touched it off.
"A lot of the family members that we visit - aunts, grandmas, uncles - have cats," said Nakia.
Now when Shania visits, the cats are put away.
But Dr. Eileen Everly of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says for many kids, the allergy trigger is in the home.
"The answer would be to get rid of the animal, but it's not so easy in real life," said Dr. Everly.
Dorothy Claeys of the Francisvale Home for Smaller Animals says area shelters see the heartbreak of surrendering beloved pets daily.
She said, "We have people in here who are brought to tears. The children are upset also, because they don't understand why."
And many pets play a bigger role in the family.
Dr. Everly said, "In the city, where I practice, some families keep cats as pest control."
Dr. Everly urges parents to talk to their doctor and work out a plan to minimize contact with pet dander.
First, try to keep the animal out of the allergic child's bedroom, especially at night.
Also, Dr. Everly says, "use hypoallergenic pillowcases and mattress covers for any allergies."
Vacuum floors and furniture often. And be sure your pet is brushed and bathed often.
And one more tip from a doctor-mom with allergies in her own family.
"Any time you're playing with the pet, when you're done playing with the pet, go wash your hands. It's very important," she says.
Dr. Everly says modern medications are also good at controlling allergy symptoms without serious side effects.
And that also helps families keep their four-legged friends. null
Kids Health Matters: Pet allergies
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