Here, what to do when someone's allergic to the family pet.

It can come as a shock when you learn that somebody in your family is allergic to the family pet – especially when this comes as news and you've had the animal for years. After all, our beloved pets are like people. They're one of us.

So what are the options in this emotionally-charged dilemma?

"That's easy. Get rid of the family member who's allergic," jokes Dr. Mark Greenwald, a Toronto-based allergist and the founder of EpiCentre Medical. "Most families, even with children who are severely allergic, refuse to get rid of the pet."

But what if someone is only mildly allergic? Doesn't that make a difference? Not really, according to Dr. Greenwald, who says you're either allergic or you're not. There's no in between with allergies. "It's like when you're pregnant. There's no such thing as a little bit pregnant," he says. "Gauging severity is important, but it's kind of like asking what size match you need to start a forest fire."

According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada, roughly half of Canadian households own some kind of pet. And the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates that approximately 10 per cent of the general population may be allergic to animals.

So what to do if you find out someone in the household is allergic? Your first and most effective recourse is to get rid of the pet, says Dr. Greenwald.

"The second recourse is to get rid of the pet. The third recourse is get rid of the pet.  After that, it's about bargaining."

If you just can't imagine living without your beloved family friend, which many of us can't, then it's all about minimizing exposure to its allergens. Depending on the type of pet you have, allergens can be found in their dander (skin flakes), as well as their saliva and urine.


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