Eczema is a chronic condition that causes itchy patches of skin.

If your child has eczema, getting treatment and avoiding triggers that worsen their symptoms is important for reducing their risk of complications and improving their quality of life.

Eczema triggers can vary from one child to another. Exposure to certain pets may worsen eczema symptoms in some children but not others.

Before you get a pet, it’s important to understand and manage the potential risks.

Your child’s specific medical history influences whether it’s safe for them to have a pet.

If your child develops no symptoms of eczema or allergic reaction after spending time around a specific type of domestic animal, it’s probably safe to have as a pet.

If they do develop symptoms, it’s best to avoid having that type of animal as a pet.

Let your child’s doctor know about any symptoms they develop after spending time around animals. Their doctor may recommend pet allergy or asthma testing. These allergic conditions tend to be more common in kids with eczema and may cause skin or respiratory symptoms.

If you already own a pet that triggers your child’s symptoms, the following strategies may help:

  • Limit your child’s exposure to the pet’s litter, bedding, and toys.
  • Encourage your child to wash their hands and change clothes after handling the pet.
  • Try to keep the pet off furniture, out of your family vehicle(s), and out of your child’s bedroom.
  • Frequently dust surfaces and clean flooring, bedding, clothing, and other items that may have come into contact with the pet’s hair, fur, feathers, skin cells, saliva, or urine.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA air filter or double-layer microfilter bag.
  • Install a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter in your child’s bedroom.
  • Follow your child’s treatment plan for eczema and any related allergic conditions they may have, which may include taking medication to limit symptoms.

If your child continues to have symptoms that negatively affect their health or quality of life, you may need to rehome the pet.

Before you get a pet, carefully weigh the potential benefits and risks for your child and family.

Here are some of the potential pros and cons of having a pet:

Pets can provide companionship and other emotional benefits, which may help reduce stress.Proteins found in a pet’s skin cells, saliva, or urine may trigger allergic reactions in some people.
Caring for pets may help cultivate a sense of purpose and responsibility.Pets may carry parasites that may cause illness if transferred to humans.
Walking or playing with pets may promote physical activity.Pets may damage items in your home by scratching, chewing, urinating, or defecating on them.
Walking or playing with pets in shared or public spaces may provide opportunities to socialize or bond with other people.Pets may injure people or other animals if they scratch, bite, or trip them.
Pet care can be time consuming and expensive.

Some of these factors may be more or less relevant to your family.

There’s no strong evidence that cats or dogs cause eczema, but exposure to these animals might trigger skin or respiratory symptoms in some kids who already have eczema or related allergic conditions.

According to a 2016 research review, some studies show that children with cats at home can have an increased risk of developing eczema. But other studies show no link between cat ownership and eczema or that lacking cat exposure may lower the risk of eczema.

Multiple studies show that having a dog at home may lower a child’s risk of developing eczema.

In a 2018 study with more than 750 young children in Mexico, those who were exposed to dogs during their first year of life had a reduced risk of eczema. Exposure to cats didn’t significantly lower or raise a child’s risk of eczema.

This is consistent with a 2013 review, which also linked exposure to dogs to a lower risk of eczema. Exposure to cats neither lowered nor raised the risk of eczema.

Experts need more research to understand how different household pets may affect a child’s risk of eczema.

Exposure to dogs or other pets may cause eczema symptoms to flare in some children with eczema but not others.

Children with eczema tend to have an increased risk of pet allergy and asthma. If your child has a pet allergy or asthma, exposure to certain types of pets may trigger skin or respiratory symptoms. Children may be allergic to some types of pets but not others.

It’s also possible for children to have an allergy to the ingredients in certain pet foods, bedding, or litter. For example, some children may be allergic to the wood shavings used to line the cages of many small pets, such as guinea pigs and birds.

Allergic reactions may trigger a flare in eczema symptoms.

It’s best to choose a type of animal that doesn’t trigger your child’s eczema or allergy symptoms.

Before you get a new pet, consider testing your child’s tolerance to that type of animal.

For example, consider asking friends or family members who have that type of animal if your child can spend some time around it. Or volunteer to babysit or foster that type of animal for someone you know or through a trustworthy organization in your community.

This can help you learn if the animal triggers eczema or allergy symptoms in your child.

If your child is allergic to cats or dogs, hypoallergenic breeds may be easier to tolerate but can still trigger symptoms.

Certain types of pets may trigger eczema or allergy symptoms in some children but not others.

Before you get a pet, consider your child’s medical history, including whether they have any known allergies.

If they have a known allergy to that type of animal or develop skin or respiratory symptoms after spending time around it, the safest option is to avoid getting that animal as a pet.

If you already have a pet that triggers eczema or allergy symptoms in your child, you may be able to reduce their symptoms through frequent housecleaning and other strategies.

In some cases, you may need to consider rehoming a pet that triggers your child’s symptoms.