Many pet owners have an allergy to their animals (allergic rhinitis). Pet dander can cause allergy symptoms through indirect contact (airborne allergens are inhaled into the nose and lungs) or by transfer of the dander directly to nasal and/or ocular mucosa by contact with pet allergen from contaminated hands or clothing.
Pet hair or fur can collect mold spores, pollen and other outdoor allergens. The protein found in pet dander, skin flakes, urine and saliva could aggravate asthma symptoms or cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Sensitive people may display reactions at work and other places due to the presence of pet dander on rugs and in clothing, bedding and air ducts. All these can be a source of allergens even when the pets and their families have moved. Pet allergens can remain in a home for up to six months or more after a pet has been removed.
Heredity plays a major role because pet allergy often runs in families. If either parent suffers from pet allergies, the chance of a child developing the condition significantly increases.
When allergy sufferers experience chronic exposure to pet dander, it can lead to worsening of asthma, sinusitis, eye allergy, nasal allergy, sleep apnea and snoring, eczema and contact hives. Exposure to cat or dog dander may worsen other allergic reactions, including seasonal allergies.
Here are some tips for reducing dander:
- Neuter male cats and dogs to lower their allergen production.
- Eliminate or minimize animal allergen production.
- Wash your hands immediately after contact with pets. Use an antibacterial soap, especially before preparing food or eating.
- Confine pets to one room of the house. Keep them out of sleeping areas.
- Put filters on bedroom ventilation grids.
- Vacuum with a good HEPA filter vacuum cleaner twice a week. Use a steam vapor cleaner to clean your rugs and upholstery.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes and nose when your pets are around.
- Washing pets twice a week can reduce allergens by 85 percent. Also, use a damp microfiber cloth to rub down pets regularly.
- Wash bedding in hot water once a week.
- Clean floors and walls with an electrostatic cloth, which attracts and holds pet hair and dander.
- Try immunotherapy such as allergy injection therapy, which is unique in specifically lowering one’s sensitivity to a pet.
- In dogs, routine and proper grooming, preferably outdoors, has been shown to reduce shedding and may decrease skin irritation and secondary bacterial infection.
Allergy control solutions are available that alter animal allergens to make them less reactive. They can be sprayed on carpets and soft furnishings and added to water when washing fabrics.
In addition, check that your pets are in good health. Their immunizations should be up to date. Regular check-ups at the vet can also spot any possible infections.
There are no truly “hypoallergenic” breeds of dogs or cats, contrary to popular belief. Allergic dander in cats and dogs is not affected by fur length or the amount shedding. Thus, giving up a pet to prevent allergy symptoms isn’t necessary. An allergist or immunologist can easily diagnose the symptoms and treat you accordingly.