Allergies to pets can be a big problem for pet lovers. Time spent indoors—whether in the winter to avoid the cold or in the summer to avoid the heat and sun—means more exposure to pet allergens. Allergy sufferers may have even worse symptoms in spring, with additional pollen, mold, and dust. Even if you aren’t directly allergic to your cat or dog, they can act like furry dust mops that trap and hold allergens that may set you off. But there are ways to potentially limit your symptoms.
Common Allergy Symptoms
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, nearly three in 10 people with allergies are allergic to cats and dogs, with cat allergies being more common than dog allergies. You may experience reactions to your pets with allergy symptoms year-round. Symptoms can include itchy eyes and throat, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, coughing, wheezing, and/or hives.
Sensitive people don't react to the pet hair in most cases. So even the “hairless” animals like the Chinese Crested dog or the Sphynx cat can prompt an allergic reaction. This is because these reactions are mainly caused by proteins produced by most pets' skin and saliva, regardless of the type (or lack of) hair. Any pet may provoke an allergic reaction; there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet, despite marketing claims you may hear. That said, there are individual pets that an allergic person may be able to tolerate, either because they build up a resistance to that particular dog or cat or because the animal happens to produce less of the proteins that induce allergy. Many hypoallergenic breeds shed less, and therefore release less dander, a combination of skin cells and fur, into the environment, so this may reduce the amount of allergen people come into contact with.
Understanding the Sneeze Threshold
A common knee-jerk reaction from some health care professionals when addressing allergy issues may be to suggest getting rid of the pet. That is not going to happen for most pet lovers. The truth is, the allergens shed by pets tend to be sticky and stay in the environment long after a pet has left the premises, so giving the puppy away may not offer an immediate cure anyway.
And since some pet-allergic people also react to other things in the environment as well, it may be possible to reduce exposure to these other allergens and improve their symptoms without removing their beloved pet from their home.
For example, perhaps you react to puppy dander, grass pollen, and dust mites, and when all three are present, your symptoms are most severe. If you can have someone else dust the house and keep dust to a minimum, and use other techniques to reduce your exposure to pollen, that may drop your allergen exposure below your 'sneeze threshold' and keep your symptoms to a more manageable level without eliminating the pet from your life.
Tips to Reduce Pet Allergies
Your physician can best guide you about the best medical treatments to control your allergies. Just be sure you convince the doctor of your commitment to keeping your pet. There are steps pet owners can take to feel better, without having to give up their special cat or dog. There are also effective steps you can take in caring for your pet and your home to reduce the presence of pet allergens.
- Bathing your pup can help. Washing the pet regularly with a gentle shampoo and plain water may reduce allergens in the environment by removing dander and loose fur. For cats, use a wet washcloth and wipe them down, since they tend to object to baths.
- Brush and/or comb your pets daily to get rid of loose hair that otherwise will be shed in the house. Consider having a non-allergic family member take care of this duty.
- Products such as Allerpet may help by removing dander and other sources of allergens such as dried urine and saliva. After a thorough brushing, Allerpet is applied to the animal's coat. It does not harm the pet or leave a residue on furniture or clothing. The product is a gentle emollient that is non-toxic and safe for use around small children, plants, and animals. There is a specific Allerpet product for cats, for dogs, and for other pets, such as mice.
- Wear an old shirt or smock to play and cuddle with your pet, and then change clothes and wash your hands and face. That rinses off allergens that otherwise you carry with you.
- Consult your medical doctor about treatments that may help, such as antihistamines and allergy shots. It’s important to get a medical diagnosis and not just assume the pet is the source of your symptoms. Once you identify the cause, it may be easier to get a handle on how to manage your allergies—while keeping the furry love of your life in your heart and home.
- Create a "pet-free zone" such as the bedroom, and make it off-limits to the pet. That gives you an area with reduced exposure to allergens that may provide a respite when your symptoms flare up.
- Forced-air heating and air-conditioning can spread allergens through the house. Use a filter material to cover vents in rooms where you want to reduce allergens.
- Remove allergen reservoirs like carpets and fuzzy throws, and aim for easily cleaned surfaces. When you can’t get rid of your carpet or hate the thought of getting rid of the pet’s favorite nap spot, keep them clean by vacuuming frequently. Wear a mask so you don’t breath in the dust or dander stirred up by the vacuum.
- Do you also have a cat? Or maybe you have a pocket pet? People may react more to the dusty litter or animal bedding than to the cat or gerbil itself. This is a great excuse to have one of the kids take on pet potty cleaning duties, so the allergy sufferers avoid exposure.
- HEPA filters added to central heating and air conditioning, or free-standing air purifiers can help remove allergens from the air. Air cleaners with an electrostatic filter also remove particles the size of animal allergens from the air.
- Be sure to wash all pet bedding frequently as well as any other washable surfaces where your pets tend to sleep or spend a lot of time. This will help remove loose fur and dander as well.
Allerpet Pet Dander Remover. Allerpet
Allergic To Your Pet? Learn About Dog And Cat Allergies. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Chan, Sanny K., and Donald Y. M. Leung. Dog And Cat Allergies: Current State Of Diagnostic Approaches And Challenges. Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research, vol 10, no. 2, 2018, p. 97. The Korean Academy Of Asthma, Allergy And Clinical Immunology And The Korean Academy Of Pediatric Al, doi:10.4168/aair.2018.10.2.97