What to do About Pet Allergies?

July 13, 2017

What to do About Pet Allergies?

When your dog or cat is causing a flare-up of allergy symptoms, giving up your pet may seem like your only option for finding relief. But giving up a loving and loyal companion can be traumatic for both of you, even though finding Fido a new home may be the most effective way to alleviate your symptoms.

If your pet allergy threatens your health, requiring emergency treatment or medications for severe asthma attacks, you may have no other choice than for you and your pet to part ways, no matter how much you want to keep him. Only you and your doctor can adequately determine the best solution for your pet allergy problem. However, if your allergy is mild, causing little more than itchy, watery eyes and a stuffy nose, there may be other options for managing your allergies.

The first step in managing any medical condition is to arm yourself with knowledge. This is true when it comes to pet allergies, too. Learning more about your allergy can help you find workable solutions for your individual situation.

What Causes Pet Allergies

Any pet that has fur or feathers can trigger allergies. If you are sensitive to an animal’s allergens and you encounter that animal, it can cause allergy symptoms.

You may be among the thousands of people who are allergic to “cat hair” but it might surprise you to know that your itchy eyes and runny nose have nothing to do with cat hair. It is actually cat dander – the flaky shed skin cells and dried saliva – that trigger those annoying allergy symptoms.

Your canine companion also has dander that may contribute to your allergy symptoms, though dog dander is not as common a trigger as cat dander.

Pet dander is clingier than an insecure girlfriend. It will cling to you, your clothes, carpet, and even your furniture. It even floats through the air where it can waft into your eyes and nose. When inhaled it can become an irritant that causes allergy symptoms like sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes.

All mammals and birds have dander and no cat or dog is truly hypoallergenic, although some breeds like to claim that label. It is, however, possible to be more sensitive to the dander of some breeds. Once you’ve been diagnosed with a cat or dog allergy, it is safe to assume that you are allergic to the dander from all cats or dogs, so trading your current pet for a different breed isn’t really a viable solution.

Eliminating Pet Dander from Your Home

Unfortunately, the only way to make your home completely dander-free is to give up your pet. If your allergies are severe, your doctor may recommend that you do just that.

Removing an animal from your home won’t magically make your allergies disappear, however. It can take weeks or even months for the lingering levels of dander in your home to sufficiently subside so that it no longer triggers symptoms.  A thorough cleaning, including scrubbing walls, carpets, and furniture, will help reduce the levels of dander that your pet left behind in your home.

If you want to try measures less drastic that exiling a furry member of the family, you might consider on of these other methods of controlling allergens in your home.

  • Create a pet-free zone in your home. Designate a portion of your home to be off-limits to your pet. It might be your bedroom or your living room, but no matter how tempting it may be or how much your puppy whines at the door, do not let them in.

    You won’t be able to keep all the dander out of your pet-free zone. Some will still make its way in by sticking to your clothing or wafting in when you open the door, but keeping your dog or cat out of this designated space will significantly reduce the amount of allergens in that section of your home. If you choose your bedroom as your pet-free zone, you might find that you sleep better at night and wake up feeling more rested.
  • Use special allergen-reducing bedding. Some sheets, pillow cases, and mattress covers make it easier to keep pet dander from settling and accumulating on your bed clothes allowing you to sleep better at night.
  • Wash your pet frequently. Bathing your pet regularly can reduce the amount of dander in your pet’s fur as well as the dander that floats and settles around your home. Not all pets enjoy getting a bath, especially cats. However, even cats can get used to bathing over time. Ask your doctor as well as your pet’s veterinarian for suggestions to make bath time less stressful for the both of you.
  • Make it more difficult for dander to accumulate. Carpets are a natural gathering place for pet dander. By replacing your carpeting with hardwood or vinyl flooring, you can reduce the number of allergens in your home. Also, consider replacing upholstered furniture with leather or vinyl. Plastic blinds can replace cloth drapes and curtains as well.
  • Use true HEPA air and vacuum filters. Using a High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter can trap pet dander and other allergens in your indoor air. Consider Austin Air’s HM410 Pet Machine air purifier to help reduce airborne pet dander in your home. Also, HEPA vacuum bags will help reduce the amount of dander that gets stirred up as you do routine cleaning chores.

There is no guarantee that these measures will work to effectively reduce your allergy symptoms. Be realistic about how much allergy annoyance you are willing to live with to keep your pet. If your allergies become too difficult to live with, you may have to accept that giving up your pet is the only solution for total relief.

Putting Your Pet Outdoors

Putting your pet outside may be a viable option when it comes to reducing your exposure to pet dander. Just remember that playing with and petting your dog or cat can still cause dander to stick to your clothes and skin and make its way back inside.

If your allergies are mild, putting your pet outdoors may be enough to reduce the dander in your home to a level that doesn’t cause drastic allergy flare-ups. However, if your allergies are severe, even limited exposure to your pet can be a genuine problem.

Remember that you should never leave your pet outdoors in extreme heat or cold. If you live in a location with an extreme climate, putting your animal outdoors may not be a viable option, especially when you consider that putting your pet outside will still not eliminate pet allergens from making their way into your home.

When You Just Can’t Part with Your Pet

Many people with allergies decide that they just can’t give up their pets, even when their doctors advise them to do so. If you decide to keep your pet despite your allergies, be sure to inform your doctor of your decision. He or she may be able to suggest other options for reducing the amount of pet dander in your home.

You should also consider getting a skin test to determine if your allergy symptoms are being caused by your pet. It is possible that symptoms could be caused by other household allergens such as mold or dust mites. Reducing these common allergens may be enough to provide you relief from your symptoms.

Ask your doctor about antihistamines and other medications that may help you manage your allergy symptoms. That may be enough to make your life with your beloved pet more enjoyable.

 


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