Owning a pet offers a wide variety of benefits, ranging from decreasing stress to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. As such, it is not unusual for pet owners to consider their furry little pals as members of the family.
But what if you or a loved one is allergic to animals? Say, for example, you married a cat or dog owner, or maybe, you had a pet when it was just you and your spouse, and soon you discover your child is allergic to pets. Is pet adoption your only recourse?
Understanding pet allergies
Before understanding what your available options are in terms of keeping a pet when you are allergic to animals, it is vital to understand what an allergy is exactly.
The primary function of your immune system is to seek and destroy foreign elements like germs, bacteria, and viruses that enter your body before these cause serious harm. In short, your immune system is a critical part of your body’s defense system.
Now when a person has an allergy, including pet allergy, their immune system is more sensitive compared to others and can adversely react to proteins from the saliva, urine, and dander or dead skin cells of pets. Contrary to what some people may believe, these three are the cause of pet allergies, not fur. However, an animal’s fur can carry these three as well as other allergens like pollen and dust.
Inhaling or coming into contact with an allergen activates the immune system. In turn, this produces the symptoms associated with an allergy flare-up.
Allergens from animals, especially from dogs and cats, can be easily carried into your home, even if you do not have pets. This is because allergens can attach themselves to the fabric of clothes or can be carried by air. Sometimes, allergens that have become dormant can be disturbed and carried into the air after cleaning or dusting a room.
Cats and dogs shed dead skin cells or dander regularly. Among the three allergens from pets, dander causes the most number of problems. For one, it can be carried by air and remain there for a long time due to its small size. It can also stick to the fabric of clothes, furniture, and curtains. That means that even if you thought you did an excellent job of cleaning your home, there is a good chance that there is still dander in your home.
Pet allergies can affect almost anyone. However, your risk increases if you have other allergies or if you have a family member who has asthma.
Curiously, though, having a pet around during early life can decrease your chances of getting a pet allergy. In fact, children who live in a household with dogs are more likely to better resist upper respiratory infections compared to their peers who live in pet-free homes.
Diagnosing a pet allergies
In order to ascertain whether you are allergic to your pet or not, your doctor will need to take into account a few factors. These include your medical history and the results of your blood or skin test.
If you own a pet, your doctor will recommend that you stay in a pet-free home to aid in the diagnosis. Usually, a person who is allergic to pets will find relief from the symptoms associated with pet allergies.
Among the most common symptoms of pet allergies are itching and swelling of the membranes, eye inflammation, stuffy nose, and reddish skin. In people with low sensitivity to pet allergens, the symptoms typically manifest a few days after coming into contact with an animal.
Treating pet allergies
If your doctor confirms that you indeed have a pet allergy, taking allergy medication can only provide temporary relief for your condition. Your best recourse is to get your pet adopted. You can let your pet live outdoors, but this will not totally eliminate the possibility of your allergy flaring up because dander can be carried in the air.
If you insist on having a pet, you will have to choose one that has no feathers or fur, like fish or turtles. Contrary to what some people may believe, there are no hypoallergenic pets. Some people may be allergic to specific breeds of dogs and cats while others are allergic to all of these animals, irrespective of the breed.
Apart from that, you will also have to avoid visiting homes that have cats or dogs. If this cannot be avoided altogether, your doctor can prescribe allergy medication which can be used before and after visiting a household with pets.
Keeping your pet
Certainly, saying that you need to get rid of the pet you have loved for years and has become a member of the household is easier said than done. If you wish to keep your furry friend despite your condition, there are a few things that you can do to lessen their impact on your allergies.
Create an allergy-free zone in your home
Find and designate an area in your home where your pet cat or dog is not allowed to get into. Ideally, this should be the room of the person who is allergic to your pet.
Invest in HEPA air cleaners
Buy a few HEPA air cleaners and place these strategically in different areas in your home.
Eliminate furnishings which catch dander
From curtains to pillows to carpets, you should eliminate any of those things which attract and accumulate dander and dust. As for the rest of your furnishings, make it a habit to clean these regularly.
Bathe your pet regularly
You can minimize dander and other allergens from your pets by bathing them regularly. Getting your cat washed regularly may be challenging at first, but most will get used to it. Just make sure that you use products that are appropriate for your pet and its age.
Find a specialist
At the outset, you have to find an allergist who understands your desire to keep your pet despite your condition. A specialist can help you find a suitable allergy treatment that can make living with pet allergies more bearable for you.
If you have pet allergies, having a pet in your home can be particularly challenging. But by following these tips, you can minimize the impact of pet allergens on your health.