Living with Pet Allergies

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Understanding Pet Allergies

If you have a passion for pets but also have pet allergies, that conflict can be very difficult. You may decide you have to remove the animal from your home. Unfortunately, this deprives you and others in your life of the many physical and emotional benefits of having a companion animal. However, as long as the condition isn’t life-threatening, you can learn how to live with pets when you’re allergic to them.

What are the Symptoms of Pet Allergies

Pet allergy symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, wheezing, itchy throat and watery eyes are the results of your body’s reaction to a protein found in the saliva, skin glands and urine of pets. These proteins stick to the animal’s dry skin (dander) and fur, and dander and fur stick to virtually any textured surface in your home. That’s why you may experience pet allergy symptoms even when your pet isn’t in the room. Of course, petting and playing with the animal will intensify your allergic reaction.

Before you take any action regarding your pet, it’s important to determine that pet is the cause of your allergy. An allergist may tell you that you don’t have dog allergy symptoms, for example, but instead are allergic to pollen they pick up when outside.

How to Treat and Reduce Pet Allergens

Assuming you’re, in fact, allergic to your pet but want to keep him or her, there are steps you can take to reduce your allergic reaction. It will be helpful to learn how to reduce pet dander and become familiar with the best medicine for pet allergies. Take these steps to see if you can reduce your symptoms to a tolerable level:

  • Make your bedroom a pet-free zone. Keeping your sleeping space as free of fur and dander as possible gives your body time to recover overnight.
  • Clean your home frequently. The more pet dander and other allergens you can remove from your environment the better. Using HEPA air cleaners can help in this regard, as can replacing carpeting with a hard flooring option.
  • Wash your hands and face frequently. Especially after you’ve been in contact with your pet, it’s important to wash the allergens off your hands and face.
  • Bathe your pet weekly. There’s some debate about how helpful bathing is, as its effects may be short-lived, but it’s worth a try.
  • Use over-the-counter medications. If your symptoms are mild, an allergy medication may be able to control them.
  • Consider allergy shots. Over time, this approach can help you develop protective antibodies that keep you from having symptoms when exposed to an allergen.

Ultimately, the answer may not be to learn how to get rid of cat allergies, dog allergies or other allergies but rather how to manage them.

Which Pets are Best for Allergies?

Each type of pet and the breeds within that type can affect a person with allergies differently. If you’re a dog lover, you should consider doing research on the best dogs for allergies. For example, the American Kennel Club has a list of dogs that allergy sufferers tolerate well such as poodles, schnauzers, and several others.

There are also alternative pets for allergy sufferers, including:

  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Fish
  • Geckos
  • Tarantulas

If you have pet allergies, talk with a Baptist Health allergist about pets for people with allergies and strategies for managing your symptoms.