How To Live With Pet Allergies
You can live a happy and healthy life with pets, even with allergies! Millions of people enjoy having pets, even those with animal allergies. In fact, 10-20% of the world’s population are affected by cat or dog allergies. Unfortunately, some people believe that once they’re diagnosed with an animal allergy, they must re-home their pet. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and thankfully, there are many solutions to be explored that allow the allergy sufferer to keep their forever friend while also managing their animal allergies. As long as the allergy isn’t life-threatening, you and your pet can happily co-exist. In many cases, the benefits of having a pet outweigh the drawbacks of pet allergies.
Common pet allergy symptoms:
- Swelling and itching of the eyes and nose
- Stuffy nose
- Excessive sneezing
- Runny nose
- Postnasal drip
- Redness of the eyes
- Excessive coughing
- Sleep Disruption
- Itchiness on the roof of the mouth and/or the throat
- General irritability
It’s common for your eyes to feel itchy after petting an animal and then touching your eyes. This is usually the first sign of a pet allergy. Pet allergies can lead to hives and can even trigger an asthma attack if you already suffer from asthma. People with pet allergies have various levels of sensitivity to pet allergens. Some people have very minor symptoms, while others have more severe symptoms.
You don’t have to touch a cat or dog to suffer an allergic reaction. Some animal allergens can get into the air, and depending on the severity of your allergy, many airborne allergens are small enough to get into your lungs. For some people, this exposure can make it very hard to breathe. If you have asthma, an asthma episode can begin within 15 to 30 minutes of inhaling allergens.
How can I get rid of my pet allergies?
For mild allergies:
- Use an air purifier / HEPA filter
- Keep your living space very clean and keep pet hair off of furniture; vacuum and mop regularly
- Clean your pet daily with pet-friendly wipes
- Take an antihistamine like Benadryl (be careful when choosing drowsy or non-drowsy)
- Frequently launder clothing, bedding, blankets, and any animal bedding
- Sleep in a separate room from the cat or dog
What if my pet allergies are moderate to severe?
For moderate to severe pet allergies, you will need to visit an allergist. The doctor will diagnose you with an animal allergy (to cats, dogs, etc.) based on your medical history, symptoms, physical exam, and allergy test. Your allergy test results are the best way to find out what specific animal you’re allergic to. An allergy test is performed using a blood or skin test.
It’s important to note that you can develop allergies at any time and that these allergies can also change over time. It’s possible you weren’t allergic to your pet in the past, but now you are.
What treatments are available for pet allergies?
- Allergy treatment (medicines): There are both over-the-counter and prescription medicine options for animal allergies.
- Allergy shots: If other treatments and steps are not working, allergy shots (immunotherapy) can be highly effective. They require a time commitment and multiple appointments. Your allergist injects a small amount of allergen into your skin. They carefully monitor you for symptoms, and the amount of allergen they inject increases over time. This treatment trains your immune system to tolerate the allergen better. You can talk with your allergist to see if this option works for you.
- Allergen-reducing cat food: If you have a cat, you can now buy cat food that can reduce cat allergens. One product available is Purina Pro Plan LiveClear. The food neutralizes a common allergen, Fel d1, found in cat saliva.
Note: Pet dander can remain in your home for up to 6 months, so wait an adequate time to see if your pet allergies have dissipated.
If you try all of the above steps, the majority of people can overcome or live with their pet allergies. And you’ll be glad you didn’t re-home your best friend!
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- The Humane Society of the United States. “How to live with allergies and pets”. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-live-allergies-and-pets
- Find an Allergist, Find Relief. “Pet Allergies”. https://acaai.org/allergies/allergic-conditions/pet-allergies/