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Pet Allergies - what is it and how to manage it?

Pet Allergies - what is it and how to manage it?

Uncontrollable sneezing around pets? You might have what's called a pet allergy - but don't worry, you can still have furry babies at home. All you need to know is how to manage it.

Pet allergies are our body's reaction to proteins found in the skin, saliva, and urine of animals. More often than not, pet allergies are triggered by dander, i.e. dead flakes of skin a pet sheds. Whilst pet allergies can be caused by any pet, it is most commonly seen in cats and dogs.

People with pet allergies experience one or more of the following symptoms due to an inflammation of the nasal passage when exposed to pets - 

  • Continuous sneezing
  • Runny nose 
  • Red, watery, itchy eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Cough
  • Upward rubbing of the nose
  • Raised, red patches of skin (hives)
  • Eczema
  • Itchy skin
  • Itchy throat - external and internal

In some cases, pet allergies can contribute to asthma, where people may experience - 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath

What causes pet allergies?

Allergies occur when the immune system reacts to a foreign substance like pet dander. Our immune systems produce proteins called antibodies that protect from unwanted substances that can make one sick by causing an infection. When we have allergies, our immune systems make antibodies against the allergen that is considered harmful, even if on the outside it might not be. When we inhale that allergen, our immune system responds by producing an inflammatory response in the nasal passage causing inflammation and its associated side effects. Prolonged exposure to this allergen leads to chronic inflammation of our airways, i.e. asthma. 

Allergies from cats & dogs

Allergens from dogs and cats are found in dander, i.e. dead skin cells, as well as their saliva, urine, and sweat. Dander remains airborne for long periods and enters the system with even the slightest air circulation. Pet dander also easily collects in upholstered furniture, carpets, bedding, and clothes. In addition to this, dried saliva also turns airborne after a certain period. Hypoallergenic dogs and cats shed less fur than do other breeds which makes them perfect pets for households with people with pet allergies. 

Allergies from small animals 

Small animals include rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs. Allergens from small animals are found in their urine, saliva, and dander, along with dust from their litter or sawdust in their cages.

How do I manage pet allergies?

In cases where your allergic reactions aren't life-threatening, there are many ways to reduce indoor allergens so that you and your pet can live together comfortably. 

Have an 'allergy-free' area - Have areas in your home where your pet isn't allowed so that you can retreat to those areas after interacting with your pet. This can be the kitchen, bedroom, balcony, etc. You may also choose to include HEPA air cleaners along with impermeable covers for the couch, mattress, and pillows. 

Install air purifiers/cleaners around the house - It is best to have as many air purifiers around your home along with dander-catching furniture, like carpets and cloth curtains, which can then be vacuumed from time to time. 

Bathe your pet every week - Bathing your pet can help reduce the amount of dander shed every week. In cases where bathing, your pet weekly becomes difficult, you can take your pet to a professional groomer to use anti-allergen shampoos. 

Check whether you are allergic to more than one allergen - More often than not, people are allergic to more than one allergen. Hence, it is best to check with an allergist to confirm whether or not you are allergic to pet dander. In such cases, it is best to reduce overall allergen levels inside your home and not solely concentrate on pet allergens. 

Over-the-counter treatments - In addition to the above, you may also opt for immunotherapy, i.e. allergy shots, anti-histamine nose sprays, and anti-histamine tablets. It is always best to find a doctor who understands the role your pet has in your life, thereby establishing the fact that re-homing your pet is not an option. 

With a combination of allergen-reducing approaches, such as medical control of symptoms, effective housecleaning, and immunotherapy, you will be able to manage pet allergies better than you ever imagined!

Here's to not allowing allergies to break up the beautiful bond between you and your pet!

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