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Living with Pets When You Have Allergies

I have a client who is a pet-lover, owns two cats, and is highly allergic to one of them. It may seem impractical, but I think many of your pet-lovers out there can understand.

Even though it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient, many people who have allergic reactions to animals just can’t give up pet ownership.

People can be allergic to any warm-blooded animal with fur or feathers. More people are allergic to cats than dogs. Symptoms can include itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, rash, and trouble breathing.

If you already suffer from asthma, having an animal around will probably worsen it. It’s usually the animal’s dander, saliva, and urine that cause symptoms. Sometimes people think it’s the fur, but it’s the dander and saliva that cling to the fur that causes the problem.

Basically, the body’s immune system is reacting to allergens, which are proteins found in dander, saliva, and urine. Unforunately, the allergens last a long time and are sticky, so they cling to furniture, walls, carpets, etc.

If you think you are suffering from pet allergies, you might want to visit and allergist to find out exactly what is causing your reactions.

If it is a pet allergy, but you really want to keep your pet, there are a few things you can do to alleviate some of the allergy symptoms.

Clean Up Allergens!

Use a vacuum with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter and use it one or two times a week. Wear a face mask when you vacuum. Steam-clean the carpet when you can.

If you can afford it, you might want to consider getting rid of carpeting and putting down hard flooring like wood or laminate. If you have throw rugs, make sure to wash them every so often. Don’t forget to wash drapes, walls, upholstery.

Remember, the allergen proteins like to cling to surfaces and stick around for a while. Also wash the pet’s bedding and toys.

Clean the air

You can use an air cleaner (a stand-alone unit or one that attaches to your central air system) that uses a HEPA filter to keep allergens in the air to a minimum.

You can also put a filter over your vents to avoid circulating allergens throughout your house.

Enforce a ban

Keep your pet out of your bedroom for sure, and other areas you spend a lot of time in. If you limit where they go, you limit where their allergens go.

Pick a pet you can tolerate best

Some dogs may trigger allergies more than others. Although you’ve probably heard of Bo, the first dog, who was chosen by President Obama and his family because he was “hypo-allergenic,” there’s really no such thing.

Even dogs such as poodles and portugese water dogs that have slower-growing hair instead of fur that sheds are not completely hypo-allergenic.

But, they may cause milder symptoms and can be a good choice for someone sensitive to allergens.

It’s the same for hairless cats. It may seem like a good choice, but remember, if the allergens you’re reacting to are in the cat’s saliva, it won’t matter that he’s bald!

Wash those hands

Because my client quickly gets a rash when she pets her cat, she makes sure to wash her hands right after touching her. She’s made the mistake before of touching her eyes or face after handling her cat and had to suffer itchy, red, bumps like hives.

Wash the pet

There’s some debate whether bathing your pet every week or so will help alleviate allergy symptoms. It’s something you can try and judge for yourself. When you brush your pet, be sure to wear a face mask.

Take medication

Visit an allergist, determine what exactly you’re allergic to, and if appropriate, consider taking medication like allergy shots and antihistamine pills.

If you can’t bear the allergic reactions you have to animals, but desperately want a pet, consider adopting a lizard, turtle, or snake. But be sure to do your research about the care and feeding for these types of pets if you decide to go this route!



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