Millions of Americans take great pleasure in being dog and cat owners; yet many of these owners or potential owners suffer allergic reactions when exposed to these animals.
It is a common misconception that people are allergic to a dog or cat’s hair, and it is falsely believed that an animal that sheds less will not cause a reaction.
However, allergies to pets are caused by protein found in the animal’s dander (dead skin cells), saliva or urine.
These proteins are carried on microscopic particles through the air. When inhaled, they trigger reactions in allergic people. As all dogs and cats posses these proteins, none of them are allergy-free. Though some breeds are considered more allergy friendly, it is likely because they are groomed more frequently – a process that removes much of the dander.
While the most effective treatment for animal allergies is avoidance, this is not always possible. Below are some tips for minimizing allergy symptoms:
- Visit an allergist/immunologist to diagnose the allergy and discuss treatment, which may include maintenance medications or immunotherapy (allergy shots).
- Keep the pet out of the allergic person’s bedroom. Animal dander will collect on pillows, leading to worsened symptoms at night and morning.
- Bathe the animal weekly to reduce the amount of dander shed at home.
- Replace carpeting with hardwood or other solid-surface flooring for easy clean-up.
- Vacuuming may not be effective in decreasing allergen levels, but using a HEPA filter and double bags may help.
- Wash bedding and clothing in hot water. While animal allergens are not easily removed by high temperatures, these measures may help.
There’s no guarantee that someone who is truly allergic to pets (about 10% of those with allergies) will tolerate living with a dog or cat. If you’re thinking about getting a pet, but are concerned about allergies, consider trying one out on a trial basis. You can also begin allergy treatment before getting a pet, including allergy shots.
Tips to remember:
• No dog is 100% hypoallergenic. Even hairless dogs produce some allergens.
• Keeping pets out of the bedroom can help reduce allergy symptoms.
• About 10% of allergic individuals have allergies to pets. It can be as high as one out of five individuals with asthma
• Get pet allergy testing and begin allergy treatment (including allergen immunotherapy) before you get a pet can help ease symptoms