Having a pet is a blessing. It’s a great companion that exhibits unconditional love and loyalty, assists you in teaching your child about caring for other beings, and acts as a great stress reliever. Mayem Yao, D.V.M., veterinarian and proprietor of Pendragon Vet Clinic, mentions how pets can be very therapeutic. “They lift you up when your spirits are down or help you cool off when you’re angry. Many adults spend time grooming their animals to take away stress from work.
For kids, it’s a great way to learn about responsibilities such as bathing, feeding, and cleaning up after their pets. Occasionally, it teaches a child about death and learning to treasure each moment with a ‘loved one.’
On the flipside, owning an animal can have its hidden dangers, too! Without knowing it, your pets can easily be disease-carrying creatures that can stealthily harm your family. Here are five common illnesses you can contract from having animals - both pets and pests - around:
Allergies / Asthma These two popular sicknesses - allergic rhinitis and asthma - are usually triggered by animals that shed (such as dogs, cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits) or by house dust mites found in bedding, upholstered furniture, carpet, and the like.
Symptoms: Joy Ty Sy, M.D., a pediatrician at Cardinal Santos Medical Center, helps you determine which is which. “Children suffering from allergic rhinitis may exhibit chronic cold-like symptoms which include runny nose, nasal stuffiness, sneezing, throat clearing, and itchy, watery eyes. However, if your child has recurrent/nighttime coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing, he may have asthma.”
Treatment: Find out what triggers the allergy. Rosanne Sugay, M.D., an internal medicine and pediatrics practitioner at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, suggests getting your child tested for allergies. “Have a blood test to determine how he will react to animals. Some kids can still take care of a pet that sheds as long as you avoid leaving the pet indoors and you don’t let the pet sleep or stay near the child’s sleeping quarters.” For people with frequent allergy or asthma attacks, take the appropriate preventive drugs such as antihistamine pills, nasal sprays, or inhalers.
Prevention: The quickest way to manage the allergy is by avoiding pet allergens (if necessary, find your pet a new home!). Daily cleaning of the house will also help.