June 12, 2018
Let's Talk About Pet Allergies and Treating Pet Dander
During graduate school, I lived alone for the first time. To keep me company, I adopted a kitten and named him Hemingway. Hemingway lived with me for 4 years before my (now) husband, Jason, started coming around. When Jason would visit, his eyes would itch like crazy, turn red, and swell. It got to the point that Jason asked me to get rid of sweet Hemingway. I told him that Hemingway had been with me for a lot longer than he had, and Hemingway wasn’t going anywhere. To this day, Jason carries a bottle of eye drops around in his pocket. And just this year, I finally convinced him to get an allergy test. What do you know…a severe cat allergy! Jason is now on allergy drops.
Pets are a part of our family, but living with pet allergies can make life miserable, but family is family. While we love our pets, some things are just not worth putting up with, read more about how to treat your pet allergies.
What causes pet allergies?
While it may seem like the pet hair itself is the problem, it's actually the dog's specific proteins that end up in their dander, saliva, and urine. The pet hair just collects the dust and dander. Because dog or cat hair can travel so easily through the air, it finds its way into our carpets, clothes, and our lungs as well.
Symptoms of pet allergies:
- Itchy, swollen, or watery eyes
- Skin irritation or hives (redness after being licked by a dog)
- Coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing
- Rashes or eczema on the face, neck, or chest
- Chest tightness
Extreme symptoms such as asthma symptoms might not occur until several days later. Pet allergies can vary in reaction times, ranging from a few minutes or a few hours.
Can I suddenly become allergic to pets?
It’s actually fairly common to suddenly become allergic to your pets. Allergies can be developed at any time throughout our lives. You can actually be allergic to different dogs as well. Different breeds produce different pet dander because of their different proteins.
However, if you know that you’re not allergic to your pet, you might be allergic to the outside allergens they’re bringing in. Allergens like pollen, mold, and grass can stick to your pet's coat and paws, causing you to flare up.
When talking about pet allergies, we tend to think of dogs. But actually, cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies.
Cat dander is so small and light that it that can spread much more easily than dog dander. It's also very sticky, so it attaches to a lot more items and areas that your cat might not be around. This is a significant factor in why cat allergies are more common than dog allergies.
Can dogs really be hypoallergenic?
Surprise! It’s a myth. No dog breed can truly be hypoallergenic. There may be breeds that shed less fur, but ultimately the allergen is in the pet's protein (dander), not just their fur.
Some ways to stop your pet from stuffing up your nose:
- Make a pet-free zone in your home. Keep pets out of your bed and bedroom. It can be tough to tell your pup to not cuddle in your bed to sleep, but it's essential if pet allergies are getting in the way of your health. Find them a nice dog bed with their favorite toy, and they'll be happy sleeping there in no time.
- Wipe your pet down after being outside. Wipe their coat and paws before they enter your home. Just like our shoes, pets drag in all kinds of dirt and pollen on their paws when they come inside.
- Bathe pets frequently. Brush and rinse them. You can find dander-reducing wipes at local pet supply stores, these are great to use in between washes. Pet fur and dander is the leading contributor to pet allergies and keeping control is important in keeping your allergies controlled.
- Clean your house diligently. Ditch the carpet or at least vacuum regularly. We all know how dirt and hair can get stuck in the carpet. If it’s continually getting worse, consider hardwood, vinyl, or tile flooring. It can take up to six months to clean your house of pet dander since the allergen attaches itself to everything. Make sure to pay attention to furniture as well, including couches and tables where dogs may leave saliva.
- Buy a HEPA filter. This will help regulate your air and l eliminate a considerable amount of the allergens in your living space.
- Avoid kissing, hugging, and touching your pet. Wash your hands after playing with your pet. Everyone underestimates how much we touch our faces. Wash off those allergens after playing with your pet.
- Medicate. Once an allergic reaction starts it can be difficult to control. If you know that you will be around a pet in the near future, start taking allergy medications before.
What if you’re already doing these things and still experience symptoms?
By taking an allergy test you can understand how severe your pet dander allergy is to fully treat it.
For temporary relief you can use antihistamines, like Zyrtec, to relieve your symptoms. The only drawback of this is that these medications won’t make you any less allergic to your pet.
What do you do if getting rid of your pet is not an option?
Don’t worry, there are long-term relief treatment options for you!
- Allergy shots help build your immune system over time, getting your body used to the allergen causing the reactions. These are administered through weekly or monthly visits.
- Allergy drops are a long-term treatment for those on the go! Allergy drops, also known as sublingual immunotherapy, can be taken anywhere and are as effective as allergy shots, with no weekly visits to the doctor.
Pets can be a part of the family, and we don’t want you to have to part with your family, but you also shouldn’t stay miserable. At Aspire Allergy & Sinus we can help determine the cause of your allergies and find a treatment solution that works best for you. Come see us and request an appointment today!
Written by Sarah Talbot