I am wondering if exposure to dogs when a person is already allergic increases their chances of developing asthma? This is not as random as it seems. My daughter is allergic to dogs and does react. We have been invited to a home with dogs for Thanksgiving, which the hosts say are hypoallergenic. I should be able to control symptoms with her meds, but my biggest concern is actually for the long-term risk rather than the acute risk. I usually avoid homes with dogs, but my husband thinks I am over—reacting (maybe I am) and really wants to go for Thanksgiving so I told him I would look into it.
This is a classic case of the Mom-Dad divide on allergic issues. Moms do tend to be more cautious than Dads. Without knowing more particulars on your daughter’s condition, I can’t say how this visit might affect her. However, a couple of things—there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, although as we say in our book (p. 213), small, well-groomed dogs are less allergenic than big unwashed ones.
Second, and more important, in general, if your daughter is asthma prone, sooner or later you will find out; it’s not like you have a series of get-out-of-asthma-free cards that you can use up. Asthmatic symptoms are usually set off by a variety of triggers. If it’s not dogs it will be something else. If you are worried that a single exposure might set her off, you should think about the level of underlying inflammation, which may be subtly altering her airways as well as leaving her vulnerable in the short term. It may be that she already has asthma, even if there is no wheezing. Ask your allergist about measuring the level of exhaled nitric oxide (EnO), which is a marker for inflammation that I have used very successfully. Depending on how old your daughter is, you might think about immunotherapy, which can be helpful for allergic asthma and that it works better for dogs than for cats. Have you considered it? Also, if you can get cromolyn sodium (Asthma Allergies Children: a parent’s guide, p. 148) in anticipation of visits like this you can reduce your child’s asthmatic reactivity.