Living With Pet Allergy...And Pets
Could I Have A Pet Allergy?
About 15% of people are allergic to animals, and a lot of these same people have pets. Maybe you are one of them. In your defense, you may not have had an allergic reaction to pets when you got your kitten or puppy. An allergy can develop with exposure. Over time, the immune system is fooled into thinking that an allergen should be treated like bacteria or a virus and your body tries to get rid of it. That is when you start sneezing and your nose starts running.
If you have other allergies or if allergies run in your family, you are more likely to develop a pet allergy. If you have asthma, you need to be especially careful since pet allergen can trigger an attack.
It is a common misconception that the pet's fur is what people are allergic to. Not so. You can shave them if you want, but it is probably not going to help your allergy. The problem is the pet's saliva, urine and dander (shed flakes of dead skin). When your dog licks his paws or your cat grooms herself, saliva sticks to the skin and fur, dries and flakes off. These airborne particles are the irritants that cause you to have pet allergy symptoms.
Give Away My Furry Friend? Are You Crazy?
Pets are part of the family. My family treats our dog, Hershey, like a child, and he is a constant source of laughter and joy. How could we give him away? I'm sure you feel the same about your dog or cat.
Before you take drastic measures, be sure your pet is the source of your allergic misery. If you sneeze your head off or itch whenever you are in the presence of your pet, but the symptoms stop when you are away from home, that is a good indicator of pet allergy. However, the symptoms of sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes and itching can be caused by other allergies as well. To be 100% sure, have a doctor test you.
I'm Keeping My Pet !!
Once you know you have pet allergies, you have some serious decisions to make based on just how miserable you are. Of course, the surest way to reduce suffering is to find a new home for your pet. If this is not an option, there are other steps you can take.
- If possible, keep your pet outdoors.
- If you cannot banish your pet from your home, keep it out of your bedroom and keep the door shut. Pets really are like little children, and they love to sneak into places they are not supposed to be.
- Absolutely do not allow your pet to sleep with you.
- Bathe your pet regularly. Check with your vet, but probably twice a week is a good goal. This is more a guideline than a rule because I understand it is easier said than done. When Hershey sees the purple plastic bucket, he makes himself as small as he can for a 45-lb. dog and hides.
- When your pet is coming in from outdoors, wiping them off will help reduce allergens - both their own dander as well as allergen they might be tracking like pollen. Products like Allerpet applied to a cloth or Quick Bath Wipes really do help reduce the amount of dander on your pets fur.
- Moisturizing your pet's skin will reduce flakes sloughing off in the same way you put lotion on your hands when they are dry.
- Launder your pet's bed often and vacuum thoroughly in between washings. A product like Anti-Allergen Solution is completely safe to use on pet beds and will neutralize pet dander and dust mite allergen.
- Do not let your pet in the car, or use washable seat covers. My son puts a towel over the seat for Hershey to sit on. Then the towel is easily washed to remove allergen and shed fur.
- Use quick tools like the Sticky Critter or a lint roller to keep pet hair off furniture or car seats since the allergens are clinging to the hair and transferring to the cloth seats and then to your clothing.
- Removing or treating carpet can help because dander will cling to the carpet fibers.
- Wash your hands after handling your pet and refrain from touching your face or eyes.
- Get someone else to groom your animal or wear a mask while brushing or bathing your pet.
- Use a HEPA vacuum or high filtration vacuum bags so that the allergen does not come back into the room with the exhausted air.
- Wear a mask to vacuum because allergens are stirred up from the floor while vacuuming.
- Use an air purifier in the room where you spend time with your pet. Limiting your pet to one or two rooms is advisable.
- Get a snake, frog, turtle or other reptile or amphibian for a pet. They don't give as much love, but they don't produce allergen either. I have to admit that we started with hermit crabs, salamanders, and frogs and I wanted something that would love me back.
- Use covers on heating/cooling vents, especially in the bedroom, since allergen-laden air can be carried from room to room through the ductwork.
- In addition to allergy symptoms, your pet's odor may be irritating to you, especially if you are asthmatic. Products with masking odors can make matters worse. Try an odor control product with no added fragrance.
- If you would like to learn more about pet allergies, Allergic to Pets? is an excellent resource.
Even removing the pet from your home may not completely alleviate your pet allergy symptoms. One reason is that pet allergen is everywhere and very difficult to completely eliminate. Cat dander has been found in homes where a cat has not been present in three years. In addition, you may be in contact with pet allergen adhering to the clothing of other people or allergen may be tracked into your home. If your child is highly sensitive to cat or dog allergen, he/she may develop symptoms merely by sitting next to another child at school who has a pet. If making changes in your environment is not enough, you may want to talk to your doctor about adding medication or immunotherapy (shots) to your lifestyle adjustments.
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The information in this newsletter is for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor first about your specific condition, treatment options and other health concerns you may have.
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