President-elect Barack Obama is on a quest to find a White House dog that his allergic daughter can live with, but allergists have a news flash: There's no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog.
Doctors who specialize in children's allergies say kids who are truly allergic to dogs probably shouldn't get one.
So Malia and Sasha, how about a fish instead?
Obama has said his young daughters have been promised a dog with their move to the White House. And in his first post-election news conference last week, he announced that Malia "is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic."
It's a common misconception. In response, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology issued a statement Wednesday saying, "There is no truly 'hypoallergenic' dog."
Another misconception is "that people are allergic to a dog's hair, and it is falsely believed that a dog that sheds less will not cause a reaction," the academy said.
Obama's transition team declined to comment.
While some people with dog allergies say some breeds cause them more problems than others, there isn't any scientific proof to back that up, said the academy's Dr. Clifford Bassett, a New York City allergy specialist.
All dogs produce proteins that can cause allergies. These proteins are found in dogs' dander — which is dead skin cells, not fur — and saliva and urine, explained Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, a children's allergy expert at Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
Grooming and bathing can remove much of the dander and cause fewer allergic symptoms, and some breeds tend to be groomed and bathed more often. But it's that treatment rather than the breed that makes the difference, doctors say.
People with general allergies but not a specific allergy to dogs will probably do fine with a dog, said Dr. Robert Naclerio, a University of Chicago allergy specialist.
But for those with a true dog allergy, diagnosed by a skin test, "then I wouldn't recommend bringing it in," he said, "because you are going to have symptoms."
Those include a runny nose, teary eyes, sneezing and coughing.
Naclerio said people with pet allergies can "outgrow" them, though it takes years.
That said, the allergy academy offers tips for minimizing the problem. (White House cleaning staff, take note):
—Clean the house often with vacuums equipped with special filters and double bags.
—Keep the dog out of the allergic child's bedroom.
—Remove carpeting, where dander also can build up.
—Bathe the animal weekly.