CHILDREN’S ALLERGIES: EPIDERMOIDS AS ALLERGENS

The scales, hair, or feathers normally shed by dogs, cats, horses, goats, rabbits, birds, sheep, rats, and mice are highly allergenic. Atopic children are easily sensitized to these skin outgrowths, and they should avoid them regardless of the results of skin tests.

Dogs sensitize through their hair, saliva, or dander (scales). Because dander is more allergenic than hair or saliva, allergy to the live animal is more severe than that caused by the hair of a dead animal used in furs or rugs or the saliva dripped on floors and furniture.

Allergy to dogs is common because the dog is a popular domestic pet; however, allergy to one breed of dog does not necessarily indicate an allergy to all other breeds. Yet all breeds are potentially dangerous, and a change in dog breed is not a solution to dog allergy.

If an atopic child does not have a dog, he should not get one. If he has one and he is emotionally attached to it, he should be allowed to keep it, but should not be allowed to replace it when it dies. Meanwhile, the dog should not enter his bedroom, and it should be kept outside the house as much as possible.

Even though avoiding dogs may be heart-breaking for a dog-loving child, there is no solution to this problem at the present time (except through a prolonged desensitization program which may not produce satisfactory results). For now, an atopic child should try to live without a dog.

Cats cause allergy because they lend themselves to cuddling and close contact. Their hair is light in weight, and it clings to the furniture for two to three weeks after the cat has been removed from a room. Persons allergic to cats should likewise avoid the other members of the cat family, such as the panther, the lynx, and the leopard (in visits to the zoo).

Commercially, cat hair is used in cheap furs, Chinese rugs, gloves, and toy animals.

Horse hair can be contacted directly through riding or indirectly through contact with the hair clinging to the clothes of persons connected with riding in academies, stables, or racetracks. The stuffing of upholstered furniture and orthopedic mattresses, rope, gloves, toys, fur coats, and suits may contain horse hair and should be avoided. A visit to a zoo should be avoided because the pony, the mule, and the zebra all belong to the horse family.

A person who is allergic to horse hair is usually allergic to horse serum as well. (Horse serum is still used in backward countries to carry tetanus antitoxins.)

Goat hair is known as mohair when it comes from the Turkish goat, alpaca when it comes from the lama of Peru, and cashmere when it comes from the goats in India. It is used to make clothing, costly Oriental rugs, imitation astrakhan, Utrecht velvet, cheap blankets, mops, ropes, brushes, and cheap plaster mixes.

Rabbit may cause allergies in children who keep rabbits as pets. Rabbit hair is used to make coats, trimmings, carriage robes, lining for gloves, slippers, food muffs, mattresses, pillow stuffing, quilts, toy animals, infant wear, hand-knitted trimmings, crochet work, gloves, hosiery, and knee pads for invalids and rheumatic children. Rabbit hair made into felt is used in the manufacture of hats, sounding hammers for pianos, insulation material for buildings, polishing pads, washers for cartridges, and insulation material for shoes. Rabbit hair furs used to be sold with deceptive names suggestive of expensive furs. This practice has now been stopped by law.

Birds and their feathers are an important cause of allergy which should be avoided regardless of the results of skin tests. A child should avoid feathers in his bedroom pillow. (The nearness of the nose to the pillow during the prolonged hours of sleep may account for bad allergic symptoms in the nose and lungs. Old feathers are more dangerous than new ones because they gather dust and molds). Allergic children should not keep birds as pets (canaries, parakeets, etc.).

Sheep wool is an outgrowth of the skin of the animal. Because it is warm, flexible, and light, it is the ideal body cover in cold climates and has been used for this purpose for thousands of years Allergy to wool is caused mainly by fuzzy woolen blankets and coarse socks. Soft woolen clothing loses much of its allergenic powers through the processing and dyeing of the wool thread. Cloth spun from wool includes albatross, astrakhan, blankets, broadcloth, felt, flannel, gabardine, jersey, rugs, serge, suede, tapestry, mohair, tweed, velour, and whipcord.

Silk is a thread spun by the silkworm and is frequently used to make clothing. Rayon (or artificial silk) is a synthetic product made of cotton; it may be used safely by children who are sensitive to silk.

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