MANAGING PET ALLERGIES
Allergens have to be at a certain level before they will cause a reaction. Therefore, to live comfortably with a pet that you are allergic to, you must keep the amount of allergens below that symptom-producing level in your home.
There are several steps you can take to do this.
- Keep the offending pet out of the bedroom. Because so many hours each day are spent in the bedroom sleeping, just keeping the pet out of this room will reduce your exposure dramatically. Also, try to keep the pet out of any rooms that you spend a good deal of time in.
- Allow the pet to spend time outside, if possible. This solution is especially appropriate if your pet is a dog or a rabbit since a dog house or rabbit hutch will allow your pet to spend time outdoors comfortably and safely.
- While outside, take the opportunity to brush your pet. Or, better yet, have a non-allergic family member do it. This will help remove loose hair – and allergens – from your pet and will keep down the amount that is shed in your home.
- Have another family member clean out the litter box or cage of your pet. While it is thought that dander and saliva are the source of cat allergens, urine is the source of allergens in other species, such as rodents. So to be on the safe side, have a non-allergic family member perform this task.
- Replace bedding and carpeting that has animal dander in it, if possible. It can take months or even years for fabrics to come clean of allergens. So if you decide, for instance, to start keeping the cat out of the bedroom, results will be better if you get a fresh start with new bedding and rugs.
- Ask your allergist about immunotherapy for animal allergies. Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be the treatment of choice if you cannot realistically reduce your exposure to animal allergens. Veterinarians, pet store owners and others who work with animals may find this to be the most effective way to manage their allergies.
- Is your home super-insulated? If it is, it may not be helping your allergies. Studies show that energy saving homes (those built with triple-glazed windows and all cracks carefully sealed) keep allergens as well as the heat in. One study found an allergen level 200% higher in a super-insulated home than in an ordinary home.
- Install an air cleaner in your home. These units, which are designed to reduce airborne allergens in the indoor environment, may help eliminate some of the pet dander and allergens in your home. Your allergist will be able to help you find the right model for your situation.
- Finally, though there are no medications formulated specifically for animal allergies, “regular” antihistamines, decongestants and asthma medications can be used to treat animal allergy symptoms. Your allergist can help you choose a medication that will be appropriate for your situation.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT ANIMAL ALLERGIES
How many people suffer from animal allergies?
It is thought that 10% of the population may be allergic to animals to some degree. For those with asthma, the percentage jumps to 20-30%.
Are some animals more likely to cause allergic reactions than others?
Yes, It seems that cats are more likely to produce an allergic reaction than dogs, but it is still not understood why.
Are different breeds of an animal more likely to produce an allergic reaction the others?
No. No correlation has been found between animal breeds and allergic reactions. Also, there is no relationship between the length of a pet’s hair and its tendency to produce a reaction. The notion that a Chihuahua, or “Mexican hairless,” dogs are less likely to produce an allergic reaction than other animals is a myth and has no validity.
What are the best pets for a person who is allergic to animals?
Turtles, hermit crabs, fish, snakes, or any animal that does not have hair are the pets of choice for the animal allergic patient.