Allergies and Pets: The Human Side
So many people are allergic to pets. It can make it hard to keep our furry friends and hard for some people to live their everyday lives. An estimated 11 million people are allergic to cats and 15% of people have an allergy to animals. For those who suffer, you are not alone and there are options.
What are Allergies?
People are that have allergies are typically allergic to the pet dander (the flakes of skin), the saliva, or the urine of the animals. This means hair is not really a factor. Shaving your dog or having a hairless cat probably won’t help. Some people can have allergic reactions to horses, birds, and just about any other kind of animal and more people have allergic reactions to cats than dogs.
Allergy symptoms form when the human body reacts to a specific trigger, in this case pet dander. The immune system thinks this trigger is a foreign invader and tries to fight it off as if it were a harmful bacteria or virus.
While allergies can be hereditary, people are not born allergic to pets. They develop the allergy over time. Research suggests that children who are exposed to pets regularly before the immune system is fully formed at 2 years old are far less likely to develop allergies to pets throughout their life.
Symptoms of allergies include itchy or inflamed eyes, stuffy nose, wheezy breath, inflamed or reddened licks and scratches, coughing, and rashes. The pet may even trigger an asthma attack. Symptoms may appear after 15-30 minutes or may even take a couple of days to appear. This delay can be a problem. Many people may not realize they are allergic to their pets. Children in particular are commonly misdiagnosed with colds or asthma as many of the symptoms are the same.
Tips for Dealing with Allergies
Completely hypoallergenic breeds of dogs and cats don’t really exist. Some breeds may be easier on allergies than others, but all animals with fur and feather produce pet dander. Pet dander can stick on clothes, furniture, walls, and other surfaces and remain potent for a long time. But all hope is not lost. Here are some tried and true tips to help you cope and keep your furry friends.
- Limit where the pet goes. This is especially true for the bedroom. You spend much of your life in the bedroom and touching things in the bedroom. By keeping your pet out of this room, you may start to feel better.
- Use an air filter with a HEPA filter. These filters are designed to reduce allergens in the air, including pet dander.
- Lose the carpets. Yes, seriously. Carpets trap allergens like pet dander and the dander can stay there for a long time. On the plus side, think about how great your place will look with some hardwood flooring and it will be easier to clean.
- Wash bedding Even if your pet is not in the bedroom, still wash your bedding frequently. Remember you are likely to spend 8 hours every night there. If you have some dander on your bedding, you are going to be sleeping on it. By washing your bedding, you remove the buildup of the dander.
- Keep your pets out of the car. If you really can’t keep your pet out of the car, consider removeable, washable seat covers. These will allow you to take your pet and you can keep the dander under control.
- Wash your hands. After you have been handling a pet, wash your hands. Clean hands can keep you feeling better. You may also need to change your clothes. Remember, pet dander can cling to just about anything.
- Clean the house thoroughly and completely. Cleaning includes, dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, carpets, flooring, rugs, furniture, and blankets. Clean these items regularly to remove the buildup of pet dander that can linger.
- Add vitamin supplements. Good pet food is balanced with vitamins and minerals to keep your pet healthy. But adding an additional supplement to keep the skin and coat healthy can help reduce the dander that is shed. Consider adding a daily supplement to your pet’s food.
- Central air units may be part of your problem. These popular units can spread allergens from one area of the house to another. You can upgrade to a system that uses HEPA filters, close the vents to certain areas of the house and use space units, or you can add your own cheese cloth filter to the vents to prevent dander from getting into certain areas, like the bedroom.
- Medication is available. If you have tried these tips and still suffer, talk to your doctor about medication options.
So you have pet allergies? With these tips you can help to reduce the contaminants and live a normal life while still keeping your furry friend. Live with your pet by cleaning regularly, using HEPA air filters, and keeping the pet out of the bedroom. Talk to your doctor if you need to add medication so you and your pet can live happily together.