Allergic to Your Pet? Steps to Stop Sneezing

Knowing what causes allergies will help you keep the puffy eyes and runny nose to a minimum.

A few weeks ago we discussed how to cope with a pooch or feline that suffers from allergies. But what if you are the one who is sneezing and itching and needs allergy medicine to cope with allergies to your pet?

I am allergic to cats, so this is certainly a topic I can relate to. But I’m proud to say that I lived with my feline Minnie for 18 years before she passed away in September. I have to admit that it wasn’t always easy, and I had my share of itchy skin and red, puffy eyes. Despite my occasional suffering, I couldn’t bear the thought of living without my pets, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. In fact, an estimated one-third of Americans who are allergic to cats (about 2 million people) live with at least one cat in their household anyway.

Before you can learn how to cope, it’s important to have a good understanding of what causes your allergies. According to the Humane Society of the United States, glands in the animal’s skin secrete tiny allergy-triggering proteins called allergens that linger in the animal’s fur but also float easily in the air. Allergens are present in the animal’s saliva and urine, too, and may become airborne when saliva dries on the fur.

The severity of reactions to these allergens varies from one person to the next, ranging from mild sniffling and sneezing to life-threatening asthma, and can be complicated by simultaneous allergies to other irritants in the environment.

Here are some steps you can take to reduce your symptoms:

Create a pet-free zone in your house, preferably the bedroom, and deny your pet access to it. I know this can be difficult because we want to integrate our pets completely into our lives, but having an allergy-free zone that you can escape to is important. Even though your pets aren’t allowed in the room, that doesn’t mean you won’t bring a little piece of them with you in the form of hair and dander. To minimize allergens, use a HEPA air cleaner and impermeable covers for your mattress and pillows.

Keep your home clean. Use the HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of your home. This is one thing that I utilized in my house, and although it wasn’t always 100 percent effective in eliminating my symptoms, I did notice a difference. Place filters on air ducts and change them monthly. Avoid cloth curtains and blinds (they catch dust and dander).

Some people even suggest forgoing carpeted floors, but tearing out carpeting can be an expensive endeavor. If you do have carpet, vacuum frequently using a microfilter bag and do periodic steam cleaning. Dust and wash your couch covers and pillows, curtains and pet beds in hot water every few weeks. Open windows to refresh your home (unless you also are sensitive to outdoor allergens).

Keep your pets clean. Bathe your pet at least monthly (that includes your cat if she will tolerate it). Frequent brushing also helps, but be sure to do it outside so you don’t spread hair throughout the house. Between baths you can rub down your pet with a wet paper towel or allergy wipes. After walks or playtime outdoors, comb and brush your dog so he doesn’t bring pollens inside.

Always wash your hands! My allergy symptoms around my cat were mostly skin related, so I never really had a problem until I petted her. And if I ever petted her and touched my face without washing my hands first … let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Always wash your hands and arms after handling your pet, and it doesn’t hurt to wash your face at the same time.

A few more tips. Clean litter boxes every day, and place them away from air filtration vents so you don’t circulate allergens throughout the house. Wash your pet’s toys with mild soap and hot water to remove saliva, which is an allergen.

Before you adopt. If you are considering adding a pet to your family and know you’re allergic, please weigh the pros and cons and make sure you can live with the symptoms before adopting. We’ve seen many cats come back to our shelter because the new owner was suffering from allergies, and it’s painful for all parties involved.

Our love affair with our furry friends shouldn’t have to end because we suffer from allergies. I hope these tips will help you cope and save you from sneezing and sniffling when you should be enjoying time with your pet.


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