It can be frustrating when Fido, Fluffy or even little Tweety causes your nose to run, your eyes to itch and sneezes to explode from your head. More than 70 percent of U.S. households own dogs, cats or bird. Unfortunately, many of us living with pets suffer from pet allergies. Understanding the basics of pet allergies may help alleviate allergen issues.
What’s an allergen? The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) says, “An allergen is a normally harmless substance that triggers the immune system to overreact in people with allergies.” With pet allergies, allergens may take the form of pet dander, saliva or even pollen and mold picked up by an animal when it’s outdoors.
Cold or pet allergy? Many allergies develop in childhood. If contact with dogs or cats have always made your eyes tear or skin itch, it’s likely a pet allergy and not a perpetual cold. Pet allergy symptoms include itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, congestion and an itchy throat. A cough may develop, as well. Young children with pet allergies may rub their eyes and nose frequently and have trouble sleeping. Sometimes the allergic reaction will affect your skin. It may itch or develop red patches.
When is it a serious allergy? You should discuss all suspected allergies with your trusted physician. It’s important to be aware that some pet allergies can trigger a severe reaction that includes difficulty breathing. This may come on as quickly as 15 to 30 minutes after contact, according to Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA.) The AAFA also states that cat contact can trigger a severe asthma attack in about 20 to 30 percent of asthma sufferers.
What can you do? After discussing your pet allergies with your physician or an allergist, you’ll need to decide if you can live with your allergy symptoms or if they’re affecting your quality of life. The Humane Society of the United States suggests people who choose to live with their pet and allergy symptoms be proactive and create one pet/allergy-free room in the home. Daily vacuuming can also help reduce dander in the home. In addition, always wash your hands after any pet contact. Consider bathing your pet weekly. Consult your veterinarian for tips on frequent bathing, even for cats.