For many people, adding a dog or cat to the family unit is an important part of creating a life. That is, until the allergies come. Allergies are basically the body's way of guarding against harmful invaders. People fight sickness with their immune system, but if your disease-fighting guard works overtime, it can lead to allergies stemming from normally benign proteins from pet dander.
So what exactly is dander? It's dead skin that your pet has shed. It sits in his fur and gets on the floors and furniture in your home. In fact, the hair itself isn't the allergen -- it's the dander that does the damage.
Living with pet allergies is a fact of life for a lot of people, whether it's because they just can't bear to live without the companionship of a cat or dog, or because friends and relatives keep pets. A lot of pet lovers have allergies, and the good news is that that when your allergist recommends you get rid of your pets (true story), you can ignore him, because there are some ways that you can minimize the effects of having your main allergen as a snuggle buddy.
Minimizing Pet Allergies
Cats, dogs, hamsters and basically any other animal with fur will shed dander in your home. Bird lovers, you should also know that your caged pet has dander it sends flying into the air. If you suffer from allergies from the proteins in this dander, then you'll likely have a red, stuffy nose, itchy throat and skin, sneezing and wheezing. More severe reactions can include asthma, coughing and shortness of breath.
Fortunately, there are some ways you can help minimize the allergic reaction you're likely to have your whole life. One great way to cut down on your suffering is by designating your bedroom a pet-free zone. Spending seven to nine hours a night face down in a pillow your cat has been on all day is a recipe for an allergy attack.
HEPA filter systems are also a must for pet owners with allergies. These filters can be room size or larger for your whole house, depending on how much money you want to spend. They filter out the smallest particles from the air, from dust mites and pollen to, of course, pet dander. Keep in mind that with home filters, you generally get what you pay for. The more expensive the unit, the more square footage it will clean.
Keeping up with the housework is another must for allergic pet owners. Try to vacuum at least every other day to keep pet hair in check. Keep your bedding changed and try to clean the areas where your pets tend to hang out the most a few times a week. Keeping your hands washed will also help your symptoms.
Aside from these in-home treatments, you should also consider medication to help you out. Over-the-counter varieties can help with minor flare ups and reactions, but if you really want to minimize your body's reaction, you should consider beginning an allergy shot treatment plan. Shots can help build up your natural resistance to certain allergens. Keep in mind that shots can take up to five years or more to become fully effective.
- "Pet Allergies." Aafa.org. (June 23, 2011). http://www.aafa.org/display.cfm?id=9&sub=18&cont=236
- "Pet Allergies: Making It Work." Webmd.com. (June 23, 2011). http://pets.webmd.com/features/pets-allergies?page=2
- "Pet Allergy Definition." Webmd.com. (June 23, 2011). http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pet-allergy/DS00859
- Wald, Jeff and Lundgren, Linnea. "How to Relieve Pet Allergies." (June 23, 2011). https://health.howstuffworks.com/diseases-conditions/allergies/animal-allergies/how-to-relieve-pet-allergies.htm