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How to coexist with pets and allergies

Are you an animal lover and pet allergy sufferer? Read all about pet allergies and how to live happily ever after with all your furry friends.

Ask your average American how they feel about their pets, and they’d most likely respond, “I can’t live without them.”

And if you ask your average American pet the same question, they’d most likely respond with “woof,” “meow,” or “chirp,” which roughly translates to: “I can’t live without them.”

The longstanding friendship between humans and animals is as American as chain coffee shops on every single street corner — consider that approximately 65% of U.S. households own at least one pet.1

Our furry friends don’t just give us unwavering companionship —for those who are plagued with pet allergies, they may come with frequent fits of sneezing and wheezing. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), as many as 3 in 10 Americans with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs, with cat allergies occurring twice as much as dog allergies.2

This presents a massive problem for animal lovers who also happen to be pet allergy sufferers. Unfortunately, most pet owners with allergies ineffectively cope with their issue by popping antihistamine after antihistamine just to spend some quality time with Fido, while some even resort to the option of rehoming their fuzzy sidekick.

If you’re one of the millions of pet owners with pet allergies, fret not — here’s how you can happily coexist with your beloved buddies while keeping your allergies in check.

When it comes to pet allergies, it’s all about the dander

Many people think that it’s pet hair that’s responsible for triggering allergic reactions. But it’s pet dander that’s the real culprit. Pet dander is composed of tiny, even microscopic, flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, and other animals with fur or feathers.

Other allergy triggers or allergens come from sources other than the animal’s skin, such as proteins found in saliva, and urine and feces from cats, dogs, and other pets.3 Dried saliva containing allergens may flake off from your pet’s fur and become airborne, where it’s then easily inhaled. Additionally, dust from dried feces can be suspended in the same way, and it causes similar levels of inflammation your respiratory tract.

Pet allergens are extremely tiny and lightweight, so they remain suspended in the air for a long time. Because of their microscopic size and jagged shape, pet allergens easily stick to bedding, fabrics, furniture, and many items carried into and out of your home. Pet dander is easily spread through your home and out to public places like hospitals and schools.

Are you triggered?

Now that you know what causes pet allergies, what are the symptoms of said allergies?

Pet allergy signs and symptoms spurred by inflammation of nasal passage include:4

  • sneezing
  • runny nose
  • itchy, red, or watery eyes
  • nasal congestion
  • itchy nose, roof of mouth, or throat
  • postnasal drip
  • cough
  • facial pressure and pain
  • frequent awakening
  • swollen, blue-colored skin under your eyes
  • frequent upward rubbing of the nose (in children)

Skin symptoms

Some people with pet allergies may also experience skin symptoms, a pattern known as allergic dermatitis.

This type of dermatitis is an immune system reaction that causes skin inflammation. If you have direct contact with an allergy-causing pet, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • raised, red patches of skin (hives)
  • eczema
  • itchy skin

Get to know your pet allergies — get tested

Here’s a statistic that will make your eyes water: it’s estimated that 90% of all U.S. households have detectable levels of dog and cat allergens.5

Before you blame your miserable allergies on your fuzzy friend, see your doctor and get tested to determine what’s really causing your allergies. For instance, you may assume that you’re allergic to your cat Mittens, but an allergy test may reveal that you’re allergic to some tree pollen that clung onto his fur, not his dander.

If the allergy test does indeed reveal that you’re allergic to your pet, here are some easy ways to reduce those irksome allergens and unpleasant symptoms:

  1. Create a safe, allergy-free sanctuary
    The most effective way to curb your pet allergies is to create an allergy-free area in your home, ideally in your bedroom. To do this, seal off your pet’s access to your allergy-free saferoom, though this may be easier said than done for particularly attached animal lovers. Be sure to use a high-performance IQAir room air purifier like the HealthPro® Plus to filter out all the pet dander and allergens from the air. Also, you may want to consider using impermeable covers for your mattress and pillows.

  2. Use a whole-house air purifier
    In addition to a room air purifier for your allergy-free haven, consider safeguarding the air from pet allergens in your entire home with a whole-house air filtration system like the IQAir Perfect 16®. The Perfect 16 neatly integrates into your home’s HVAC system, which means your existing supply ductwork delivers all the pure, filtered air. The powerful air purifier doesn’t use any electrical components or moving parts, so it provides clean, medical-grade air throughout your entire home without adding any additional noise over your HVAC system. With a whole-house air cleaning system in your home, you’ll enjoy comprehensive protection against pet allergens in every single room.

  3. Regularly bathe your pet
    Try to reduce the level of dander in your home by bathing your pets every week (if you happen to have the luxury of an extra hour or so per week).
    Dogs typically give you less guff when it comes to bubble bath time, but cats can get accustomed to being bathed overtime as well. It’s worth mentioning that you should only use products designed specifically for cats.
    Leary about submerging your buds in suds? There’s no shame in letting your veterinarian or pet groomer handle the bathtub business.

  4. Routinely clean your home
    Don your IQAir Mask and clean your entire home thoroughly to remove dander and dust. Vacuum your carpet, rugs, tile, furniture, and any other vacuum-safe surface. While you’re riding a mean cleaning streak, be sure to wash articles like sofa covers and pillows, curtains, and most importantly, pet beds. Deck out your sleeping quarters with hypoallergenic pillows and comforters to further reduce your exposure to allergens.

  5. Seek additional allergy treatments
    Tell your allergist that you’re committed to living with your pet and your allergies. They may prescribe additional treatments like antihistamine pills, immunotherapy (allergy shots), and/or antihistamine and steroidal nose sprays.

Don’t let allergies come between you and your pet

The bond between you and your cuddly buddy is far too strong to let pet allergies break it. The above tips may be help reduce your allergy symptoms, and in turn, preserve your canine companionship or feline friendship for years to come.

Article Resources

[1] Ownby D, et al. (2016). Recent understandings of pet allergies. DOI: 10.12688/f1000research.7044.1 

[2] Pet allergy: Are you allergic to dogs or cats? (2015). https://www.aafa.org/pet-dog-cat-allergies/

[3] Pet dander. (2019). https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/indoor/indoor-air-pollutants/pet-dander.html

[4] Pet allergy. (2019). https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pet-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20352192

[5] Allergy statistics and facts. (2017). https://www.webmd.com/allergies/allergy-statistics
 

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