How to Live with Pet Allergies
Pets of all shapes and sizes bring joy to our lives, but for some having a furry companion around the house is an absolute nightmare. For example, according to a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) study in the US, almost half of participants tested positive for at least one of ten common allergens, including cat allergies. Meanwhile, pets are one of the biggest causes of allergy in British homes, with 50% and 40% of asthmatic children sensitised to cat and dog allergens, respectively.
But all of that said, when have we ever let a little thing like an allergy stop us from doing the things we love? Sure, pet allergies may be uncomfortable, but with the right know-how you too can bask in the joys of owning a pet. Here, we’re showing you how by adopting simple methods you can live comfortably with pet allergies, allowing you to enjoy the important things in life – like having fun with your pets!
Firstly, however, we’ll briefly look at what causes pet allergies, as well as the symptoms they display. Namely, allergens are found in the saliva, sweat and urine of cats, dogs and other animals.
As animals frequently groom themselves, their fur and skin cells (or dander) become coated in allergens found in their saliva. When an animal then sheds its fur, or its skin flakes off, these allergens can spread throughout the home. In particular, once saliva dries it can become airborne and spread even further afield, clinging especially to fabric surfaces.
Once allergens are present in an environment, they can prove obstinate and difficult to remove. Studies have found that pet allergens can persist in an environment even years after a pet has lived in the home. Likewise, children with pets in their home can carry allergens on their clothes and shoes into their school.
It’s also worth noting that all cats and dogs produce allergens. Although some allergy sufferers can tolerate some animals, it isn’t the case that these animals don’t produce allergenic material – they might simply produce less. For instance, some breeds of dog – like poodles – shed less fur, and as such deposit fewer allergens in their environment. Therefore, whether you suffer an allergic response to any animal is entirely dependent on how sensitive you are.
Sensitivity varies wildly, and does so for any number of reasons. For some, early exposure to an animal could have caused them to become sensitised to certain allergens. Others may just have an overactive immune system, a genetic predisposition to allergies. Your genes could include instructions to construct antibodies to fight off otherwise harmless allergens, mistaking the sweat, dander and fur of your animal for a dangerous microbe it must repel. This results in your allergic response and its associated symptoms, including a runny nose, itching, swelling, sneezing, rashes and even chronic asthma.
More people are allergic to animals than you’d think, and although you may never have displayed major symptoms you could be, too. Cat and dog allergies could be very mild in some people, so mild in fact that they never notice their allergic response.
But if you have found yourself sneezing around your friend’s cat or have recently brought a dog into your home and discovered a rash soon after, there are ways to diagnose allergies. Simply visit your doctor and tell them about your allergy worries. They can offer an allergy skin prick test, or a blood test if you’re unable to have a skin test due to a pre-existing condition.
In the skin test, your doctor will prick your skin’s surfaces in multiple areas. Some of these areas will contain allergens, while others are used as control sites and contain no allergens. After a short period, your doctor will examine your skin and look for inflammation. If an itchy red bump has formed, this confirms that you’re allergic. In the blood test, meanwhile, specialists search for antibodies to common allergens.
There are a number of ways you can treat and solve allergy problems. Your doctor may be able to offer you immunotherapy, for instance, in a bid to desensitise you to an allergen. This involves a series of allergy shots that train your immune system to react differently – and less dramatically – to an allergen.
Other treatments involve a variety of medicines, such as antihistamines, corticosteroids and decongestant sprays, and you can obtain these either through your doctor or over the counter. These treatments can limit the severity of your allergic response, but are dependent on you taking them regularly if you want to make the most of them.
Perhaps the best solution to dog allergy symptoms, as well as those from other pets, is to take a proactive approach to your allergies. Measures you could take include:
- Purchasing an air purifier for your home to reduce the presence of airborne allergens such as dander and dried saliva
- Regularly taking your pet to a professional grooming service to reduce the likelihood of skin and fur shedding in your home (and wash your pet weekly too for the best results)
- Vacuuming and cleaning your home routinely to remove allergens
- Designate ‘pet-free’ spaces in your home to limit the spread of allergens
- Wash your pet’s bedding to remove allergens
You should also wash your hands more often than you have done in the past. Although some allergens are indeed airborne, a lot of allergens will still pass directly to you from your pet after you stroke them. In particular, if you rub your eyes after playing with your pet you could suffer a major and painful allergic reaction. Limit the possibility of this happening by washing your hands frequently, and especially after playing with your pet.
Professional Pet Advice & Trustworthy, Attentive Pet Care from Green Lane Farm
Pet allergies aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to owning a pet. As you can see, there are certain things you can do to limit the negative effects of your allergies, but there are so many more things you can do, too. Here at Green Lane Farm, we have over 50 years of experience looking after animals, and we’re ready to offer our expert advice to you.
Pet owners throughout Chessington, Kingston and the wider Surrey areas can also benefit from our trustworthy and attentive pet care services, including kennels and catteries. We are dedicated to making all animals in our care feel as comfortable and happy as possible for as long as they’re with us. So, if your allergies are getting the best of you for a time and you’d like a break to recover, simply contact us today – our friendly team are more than happy to help.