Many of us would do anything for our pets. Depending on how spoiled they are, they sleep in our beds, welcome us home each day, and eat dinner with us (occasionally when they’re not supposed to). However, if you are finding that you wake up with red eyes and a running nose every time you fall asleep cuddling Fluffy, you might need to consider whether you have a pet allergy.
This does not mean that you have to choose between your beloved pet and your health. There are ways to make sure that both your beloved pet and your sinuses can coexist peacefully, it just takes understanding the issues at play, and working to solve the underlying issues.
What are pet allergies?
Allergies to pet fur are very common, these allergies are even more prevalent in people who already have asthma or other allergies. Interestingly, studies have found that cat allergies are about twice as prevalent as dog allergies, which is good news to dog lovers!
Our immune systems are built to detect harmful, foreign substances and warn us, hopefully before any more harm is caused. This will normally shield us from serious diseases and dangerous substances. However, allergies occur when an individual’s immune system perceives something harmless, like pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, as something very dangerous.
These overly-sensitive immune systems overact when they come into contact with harmless substances and cause the symptoms that allergy-sufferers are so familiar with. A number of the most common reactions are:
However, with pet allergies, these reactions can be a little different. If someone with a pet allergy is scratched by a cat, the scratch can become red and inflamed. Even when coming into contact with a friendlier cat, licks and close contact with the cat can cause redness, itchiness and swelling in the areas that were in contact with the animal.
Unfortunately, for some people with asthma, contact with a cat can spark an asthma episode and cat allergies can lead to chronic asthma for some individuals.
What about hypoallergenic pets?
Recently, there has been an increased interest in hypoallergenic pets. However, this is something of a misnomer. If you are allergic to pets, there is no pet which you will not be allergic to. This is because it is more than just dander and fur that allergy-sufferers are allergic to. Individuals who have pet allergies have immune systems that respond and react to proteins in every pet’s dander, saliva or urine.
Pet Dander and the Air
Although many people think they are allergic to pet hair, they are actually allergic to pet dander. Although pet hair is not an allergen, it can collect saliva, urine and dander from pets, which are allergens. Anyone who has had a pet will not be surprised to know that pet allergens collect on furniture and indoor surfaces. These allergens may not lose their strength for months and homes that have never had pets can become infected with pet allergens even if someone who has been in contact with a pet enters the home.
Pet allergens easily become airborne; these allergens become airborne when an animal is petted or groomed. Also, settled allergens can become airborne once more through dusting or vacuuming, when they are disturbed and fly into the air. Once the particles are airborne, they can remain suspended in the home’s atmosphere for extended periods of time.
The tenacious quality of pet allergens means that those who suffer from asthma or pet allergies will find it difficult to escape and may feel uncomfortable for extended periods. As contact with cats and dogs can trigger allergic reactions and asthmatic episodes, it is important to keep pet dander and pet allergens under control as much as possible, especially for allergic households.
How can pet allergies be treated?
For those with pet allergies, the advice for how to treat pet allergies is simple – avoid contact with cats and dogs as much as possible. This means avoiding pets and also avoiding visiting households with pets. If possible, avoiding cats and dogs altogether is the best way to avoid pet allergies. This way, allergy sufferers may not need to resort to any medicine or medical treatment.
If you are an animal lover, this may require a little creativity. For those with mild pet allergies, keeping your pets outdoors is an option. However, there will still be pet allergens in your home and not all climates allow for pets to live comfortably outside.
Also, if you are happy to expand your horizons, you could also consider swapping a fluffy pet for one with scales or shells. Reptiles, amphibians and fish are great alternative pets and they do not release allergy-inducing dander.
A pet allergy can create social issues and challenges. Many people have pets or have frequent contact with cats and dogs. This makes it difficult for individuals, especially children, with pet allergies who try to avoid all homes where pet dander is lurking. If your social life makes coming into contact with pet allergens unavoidable, you can speak with your doctor to learn about potentially using medication before exposure.
What if I will do anything to keep my pet?
Those of us who are true dog lovers or cat lovers will understand that for some pets, you will do anything to stay with them. The good news is that you will not have to find a new forever home for your furry family member. Although the best way to combat pet allergens is by removing pets from the home and avoiding all places where pets live, there are ways to limit your exposure to pet allergens and make your life together a little less sneezy.
One of the easiest measures you can take for reducing the impact of pet dander on your allergies is to make sure your pet does not have access to your bedroom. We spend so much time in our bedrooms that making sure Fluffy stays in his own bed, in another room, and ensuring that he is not able to sneak into the room for 4am cuddles, will improve your allergies and cut down on your exposure to pet dander.
As would be expected, cleaning is key. Ideally, you should remove your home’s carpeting and aggressively scrub the walls and floors. Bare walls and floors are ideal as they have less surface area for pet allergen particles to stick on to. However, if you do have carpeting or rugs, you can limit the pet dander that is caught in them by steam cleaning your carpets frequently and washing your rugs in hot water. When you vacuum your home, wear a mask so that you are able to effectively limit your exposure to pet dander and other allergens that are disturbed and thrown into the air during vacuuming.
It also helps if both you and your pet have set hygiene patterns. This means that after prolonged contact with your pet, you change your clothes and wash them in hot water. Also, keeping your pet groomed and clean may help to reduce symptoms. If possible, it is also helpful to have someone who does not have a pet allergy clean your pet’s litter box and cage frequently and brush your pet outdoors with an allergy brush. These brushes remove dander from your pets.
The most effective treatment for pet dander
However, if you really want to limit your exposure to pet dander in the home, your best option is to invest in a high-quality air ventilation system. More than changing your clothes and brushing Fluffy outdoors, a suitable ventilation systems will take fresh air from the outdoors, purify it and extract allergens, and then gently circulate the fresh, clean air throughout the house. Ventilation systems such as Positive Input Ventilation system will limit the amount of allergens in your home and ensure that every member of your household is breathing fresh, purified air.
An investment in a high-quality ventilation system will mean an ultimate savings of time and effort. Once your ventilation system is installed, you can forget that it is there as it circulates purified air through your home.
Contact an advisor today to learn more about how you and your family can be better protected from pet allergens in your home.