Solutions for Humans with Pet Allergies
Being allergic to certain animals doesn't necessarily mean you can't have that type of pet or that you must give up one you currently have. These days, there are many solutions that can drastically reduce your symptoms and make cohabitating much more comfortable.
Understanding Your Allergies
A helpful first step is getting an allergy test. Allergic reactions are caused by allergens, substances which are usually invisible to the human eye, such as pollen, dust, mold spores, or food additives. For those with pet allergies, the most common cause is animal dander, the naturally occurring combination of saliva and skin cells that your pet is continually shedding. Dander imbeds itself in carpeting, furniture, and draperies and remains in the environment causing reactions for those who are allergic. All cats and dogs produce dander, though some produce less than others. With cats specifically, Fel d 1 is a protein created in their saliva and thus spread onto their coat and dander which commonly triggers allergic reactions.
Some animals may be more tolerable to your senses than others because they shed fewer allergens, or they produce less of the specific allergen you are triggered by (saliva vs. dander, etc.). Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a universally hypoallergenic animal. Within any given breed, or even litter, you may find animals that you can tolerate more than others. Based on your pet’s fur and lifestyle, you could unknowingly be worsening your allergies, as well; certain coat styles and lengths will catch more outdoor allergens like pollen during walks or playtime, carrying those into the home and leaving them behind on furniture, bedding, and other soft surfaces. This is why it’s so important to get tested and find out exactly what allergens affect you so you can come up with the most effective treatment plan.
How to Reduce Allergens & Symptoms
•Get an allergy test | Allergies are usually cumulative and often involve multiple different allergens. Since the allergic person is sensitive to more than one thing, it is the total allergen level that causes a reaction. Whether or not a person has symptoms depends on how many allergens are in the environment at the same time. An individual who is allergic to animals may exhibit no noticeable symptoms as long as the total exposure is below their allergy threshold level. The trouble begins when there are enough allergens in the environment to exceed this level. The goal is to minimize exposure to airborne allergens that exceed tolerance thresholds and trigger attacks. You can do this by identifying and concentrating on all the causes, not just the pet allergy.
•Use HEPA air cleaners and vacuums/Clean frequently | HEPA filters trap harmful particles in the air such as pet dander and dust mites. If you are unable to avoid carpet or furnishings that trap more particles, it is important to clean frequently to remove any dust and dander. Air purifiers and frequent vacuuming can make a big difference.
•Create an “allergy-free” zone | You may consider restricting your pet from one or two rooms in the home to reduce the amount of total allergens.
•“Bathe” your pet on a weekly basis | Routine bathing and/or grooming can go a long way in reducing certain pet allergens. Cats typically do not like to be bathed and they do a great job of keeping themselves clean. Unfortunately, the “baths” they give themselves are usually what is causing you grief. With the proper steps, tools, and gradual introduction, it’s possible for your water-averse cat or dog to become comfortable with bath time, especially if you start when they are young and try to make it as pleasant and stress-free as possible. If your pet does not enjoy baths, you can help by brushing them more often to reduce the amount of shedding, and try dander-reducing wipes specifically made to minimize dander.
•Treatments | If the steps above are not effective, you may seek out treatment options such as immunotherapy (allergy shots), steroidal and antihistamine nose sprays, or antihistamine pills. When searching for the right solution for you, it’s important to seek out an allergist that understands your commitment to keeping your pet so you can both share the same goal.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Always consult your medical doctor before starting any medication or changing medications. Please consult your veterinarian for additional support on finding medicated shampoos or wipes for your pets.