Do you have red, itchy, watery eyes or find yourself sneezing or coughing when you come into close contact with a cat or dog? If you do the chances are you have a pet allergy. Unfortunately, a lot of people never find out they have an allergy until they get a pet – by which time it’s a matter of managing the symptoms. If this is you – it’s important that you understand pet allergies, so you can have your pet and live with it too.
An allergy to pets is normally a harmless substance that triggers the immune system to overreact in people with allergies. Although a lot of people believe it’s the fur that causes an allergic reaction, it’s not. Fur length and type will not affect or prevent allergies. Certain pets can be less irritating than others to those who suffer from allergies, but that is strictly on an individual basis and cannot be predicted. The most common pet allergens are proteins found in their dander (scales of old skin that are constantly shed by an animal), saliva and urine cells.
You may hear claims about breeds of dogs and cats that don’t cause an allergic reaction or cats and dogs that are hypoallergenic (cause less of an allergic reaction). However, even hairless breeds may cause a severe allergic reaction – so these claims are false! If you are allergic to your pet, but your reactions are bearable, there are lots of things you can do to reduce allergy symptoms so you and your pet can live together more comfortably.
- Limit the areas of the home where your pet is allowed, primarily the bedroom and the bed. This will enable you to create an allergy free room. By preventing your pet from entering this room, you can ensure freedom from allergens every night.
- Hoover regularly using a hoover equipped with a HEPA filter or a disposable bag. Other kinds of bags will permit allergens to blow back out.
- Regularly wash all soft furnishings. Allergens collect in rugs, drapes and upholstery, so steam-clean them regularly.
- Install an air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter. Our modern, energy-efficient homes lock in air that is loaded with allergens, so it’s smart to let in some fresh air daily. Alternatively increase ventilation with fans, air-conditioning or by opening windows.
- Dust regularly. Wiping down the walls will also cut down on allergens.
- Invest in washable pet bedding and cages that can be cleaned often and easily.
- Give your pet a bath at least once a week to wash off the allergens.
- Brush or comb your pet frequently. It’s best to do this outdoors, if possible.
If all else fails, make an appointment with an allergy specialist who can help relieve your symptoms. They will also be able to suggest medications that you can take, which will hopefully allow you and your pet to live happily ever after, and allergen free!