You’re allergic to your pet? Now that’s a tough one. Hearing your doctor telling you to give up your pet must have been heartbreaking. Finding it a new home would be emotionally difficult, but it has to be done, especially if your allergies are found to be detrimental to your health and may require emergency medications. But for mild allergy symptoms, there are other ways to go about it.
What causes a pet allergy?
Contrary to popular belief, the main cause of an allergic reaction to dogs and cats is not their hair or fur, but what is under it: dander or old loose skin scales (similar to dandruff on the human scalp) that contains secretions from sebaceous glands on the skin of dogs and cats, and other furry or feathery pets. Pet dander consists of several proteins that trigger an immune system reaction in some individuals.
Pets constantly shed dander that become airborne and float around the house that the pet lives in, and therefore, may be inhaled by people. You will never notice these allergens because they are just tiny microscopic dust particles or powder that floats in the air, and they are so sticky that they cling to furniture, curtains, wall coverings, and carpets.
Also, in both dogs and cats, the saliva and urine that dries on their fur can flake off releasing the same kind of microscopic particles that become indoor airborne allergens.
How does pet dander affect those with allergies?
Since pet dander particles are airborne, they can easily get into the body through the lungs when we inhale. If the allergen levels are low or if the person’s sensitivity is minor, symptoms may not manifest immediately, and may occur only after several days of contact with the pet.
When allergic reactions are moderate, swelling and itching, stuffy nose and inflamed eyes results when pet dander lands on the exposed membranes. Asthma attacks can also be triggered.
There are some individuals who react immediately when they step into a room where there is pet dander in the air, even if they did not handle or play with the animal. If the pet has been living in a home for a long time already, there will be enough pet dander floating in the air to cause an allergic reaction.
What are the best ways to control pet dander in the house?
Given that your allergies are manageable; your doctor will recommend that you change a few general house rules pertaining to your pets.
Bathe them with pet shampoo weekly to minimize the dander accumulated on their hair. Better also if you can train them to sleep outside the house, but make sure that their shelter is cozy and comfortable whatever the weather may be.
For your home, have a source of fresh air so that animal dander won’t be contained indoors. Remove all forms of carpeting or fabric covered furniture, and instead opt for leather or vinyl covers that can be cleaned easily. If there is no way to get rid of carpeting, use a vacuum cleaner with a High Efficiency Air Filter (HEPA) system to trap the tiny particles of pet dander.
But if your allergies are not alleviated despite your efforts, then the only resort would be to find your pet a new home. Weigh the pros and cons and discus your concerns with your doctor.