Catch the Culprits: Pet Dander
If you’re allergic to cats or dogs, living in a pet-loving country can be rough. It’s especially tough if you have a pet living at home, spoiling your indoor air quality. By learning more about cat and dog allergies, you can identify exactly what’s making you sneeze and reduce your exposure to pet allergens.
Causes of Pet Allergies
Contrary to popular belief, dog and cat hair isn’t usually what makes you sneeze. Instead, pet dander and saliva are mostly to blame. Dander consists of tiny flakes of skin, which can float on the air and cause allergic reactions in particularly sensitive individuals without even touching the animal.
So why is it that some people can bury their faces in the fur of a fluffy husky while you’re left with itchy, watery eyes just from walking into a room with a cat sleeping in the corner? It comes down to your overactive immune system. Your body mistakes a harmless substance – in this case pet dander – for a dangerous invader. Histamines are released to attack the foreign intruder as if it were a bacteria or virus. Your body’s attempt to flush the dander from your system is what causes your allergies to flair up.
Symptoms of Pet Dander Allergies
Most of the symptoms you experience if you’re allergic to cats and dogs are similar to other nasal allergies. These include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy eyes and nose
- Coughing and wheezing
- Heightened asthma symptoms
You might also develop a rash where a cat or dog licks or scratches you. More severe allergies may cause hives to develop on your face or chest. Allergy symptoms may show up after just a few minutes of exposure to pet dander or they may take hours to appear, not affecting you until the dog or cat is long gone.
How to Reduce Your Exposure to Pet Dander
Dander is everywhere. Over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants help many allergy sufferers, but prevention is the better option. Follow these tips to reduce your exposure to pet dander:
- Resist the urge to pet a cat or dog. If you come into physical contact with an animal, wash that part of your skin with soap and water right away.
- If you’re staying with someone who owns a cat or dog, ask that the animal be kept out of the guestroom for a few weeks leading up to your visit.
- If you can plan ahead, take your allergy medicines a few hours before coming in contact with a cat or dog. This can greatly curb your allergy symptoms.
- Since pet dander sticks to clothing, you should launder your clothes after visiting a pet-owning friend’s house, even if the visit only lasts for a few hours.
If you own a cat or dog and can’t bring yourself to find the animal a new home, follow these tips:
- Restrict the pet to certain areas of the home. Never allow the animal in your bedroom.
- Clean often. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter and an electrostatic duster to remove as much dander as possible.
- Replace wall-to-wall carpeting with hardwood or tile flooring. Replace the upholstered sofa with leather furniture.
- Invest in a high-efficiency furnace filter to catch pet dander as it circulates through the ductwork.
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