Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on how getting a cat can affect asthma

I am thinking of getting a kitten but am concerned there is a risk that it might cause my son’s asthma to return. He finished using his inhalers a year ago.
Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on how getting a cat can affect asthma

Your child may not be sensitised to cat hair and if so will not likely develop a reaction to the cat. However, if cat or animal hair has been one of your child’s triggers in the past, it may be a good idea to discuss the issue with your GP.

Asthma is a reversible condition of the airways which results in periodic wheezing and difficulty in breathing. It may be associated with eczema and allergies and may run in families. It cannot reliably be diagnosed clinically until the age of two years old. Some children may need inhalers while they are young but many will ‘grow out of’ their need for them.

Asthma can be a very serious condition and it is important that it is appropriately managed and followed up with regular check-ups with your family doctor. There are a number of potential triggers for asthma. These can include animal hair, pollen count, exposure to cold air or exercise.

Asthma may improve with warm weather and recur in the winter. Children may also become wheezy because of a number of viral infections and may temporarily benefit from the use of a reliever inhaler. Pets and pet hair may trigger flares of asthma in people who are prone to the condition.

Animal dust mites that live in the fur of cats and dogs are commonly to blame. There are a number of things you can do if you have a pet to help reduce the likelihood of allergic reactions and triggering of your asthma. These include hand washing, and making sure that the cat or dog is brushed regularly to avoid excessive shedding.

It is a good idea to keep pets out of children’s rooms, and away from furniture. Cat litter should be odour- free if possible.

Allergy testing may be an option if appropriate to see what the triggers are likely to be for your child’s allergies.

I am going through a lot of stress at home and at work and I have recently noticed my heart can start racing when I am sitting down at night. I am in my early 50s and I have no other symptoms. Should I be worried?

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Stress may manifest as physical symptoms. Anxiety can be a normal feeling especially if you find yourself in a pressurised situation where there are increased demands on you. This may manifest itself as a tense feeling, feeling wound-up, butterflies in the stomach, nausea or palpitations. In most cases this should pass and should not interfere with your daily life.

In some cases stress or anxiety may become disabling if it is particularly severe or prolonged.

Stress that interferes with daily life, where sleep or appetite are disturbed or where it is associated with prolonged low mood and lack of energy may require assistance from your doctor as it may be a sign of an underlying anxiety or depressive disorder. There are a number of things you can do at home to relieve your symptoms.

Meditation and relaxation is helpful. It can be a good idea to take time on a daily basis to relax and focus on calming the body and to consciously notice any tension you are carrying. There are a large number of widely available tapes and resources online to help guide you through simple relaxation exercises.

Seep is essential. It’s important to establish and a normal sleep pattern to help reduce stress levels. Exercise is also very helpful. Twenty minutes of physical activity daily will help to improve your mood and physical fitness and reduce anxiety. Alcohol may also increase anxiety symptoms and can have a significant negative impact on your anxiety especially when taken to excess. The recommended weekly alcohol unit limits for men is 17, a reduction in alcohol consumption (if excessive) may also help to reduce your anxiety.

Palpitations may be caused by a number of other conditions such as thyroid dysfunction or heart conditions and it is a good idea to visit your GP for a check-up if you are concerned about persistent symptoms.

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