DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a baby sitter who is allergic to cats. For new families, I won't know if they have a cat until I get to the house, and sometimes I'm not prepared with non-drowsy medication. I have had problems when I have gone to baby-sit, and it has caused me difficulty breathing. Then it’s hard for me to take care of the children. Can I ask these families for Benadryl before they go out? I would feel bad rummaging through their cabinets looking for medication while having a reaction. -- Swollen Eyes, Washington, D.C.
DEAR SWOLLEN EYES: Since you know that you are allergic to cats and have already had the occasion to work with families who have cats, it is incumbent upon you to be prepared. You should travel with Benadryl. Keep it in your bag so that you are always ready to take care of yourself. As one who is troubled by many allergies, I can assure you that the best thing you can do for your health is to be proactive.
With that in mind, there are a few other things you should do when you learn that a family with whom you are working has a cat. Ask where the cat sleeps, perches, etc. Determine exactly which furniture the cat uses so that you never sit on it. (I made the mistake of not asking that question once and slept where a cat commonly naps. I could barely breathe when I woke up in the middle of the night.)
Finally, if you do find yourself in a home with cats and you do not have Benadryl, immediately ask if the homeowners have any. It should be a last resort to go through their cabinets.