The human immune system is responsible for protecting the body from harmful particles like bacteria and viruses that cause diseases. However, there are certain instances when a person’s immune cells react to particles that aren’t inherently harmful. This is what happens when you experience allergic reactions.
One common type of allergy involves animals – pets, to be more specific. Some of the symptoms of a pet allergy include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing, watery or itchy eyes, facial pain, and skin rashes.
If you are one such individual who keeps beloved pets but experiences allergies when surrounded by them, then it is important that you fully understand your options. Find out what causes the allergy and determine what else you can do to stay sniffle-free while enjoying the company of your furry pals.
What Causes a Pet Allergy? Hint: It’s Not the Fur
Contrary to popular belief, pet allergies aren’t triggered by the animal’s fur. Rather than being the allergen in itself, animal hair only serves as a medium that carries the particles that cause the condition like animal urine, dander, and saliva, as well as pollen and dust.
Pet dander, or the microscopic specks of skin shed by animals with feathers and fur, is commonly found in households with domesticated animals. Aside from cats and dogs, other pets like hamsters, ferrets, and birds also carry and shed these dandruff-like particles.
However, allergy experts reveal that it’s neither the dander nor the urine or saliva that triggers the allergic reaction – the proteins in them are the real culprits. In fact, many types of allergies – from food allergies to hay fever – occur because of specific proteins in such substances.
Since allergens are microscopic and airborne, they tend to be ubiquitous in places that animals frequent. This explains why pet allergies can be triggered just by entering a room, even without coming into contact with the animal residing there.
Hypoallergenic Breeds: There’s No Such Thing
Having pet allergies can be a mind-boggling dilemma for animal lovers. This may be why some continuously look for animal breeds that are “hypoallergenic” or that don’t cause allergic reactions.
Unfortunately, allergy and pet authorities have declared that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet.
The truth is that some people are simply more sensitive to some breeds than others. Here are some of the dog breeds that the American Kennel Club dubbed the “least allergenic”:
- Bichon Frise
- Chinese Crested
- Afghan Hound
However, you must first determine what specific allergy you have before adopting these dogs as there are an unlucky few who are allergic to all breeds and species of furry and feathered animals.
5 Tips for Managing Animal Allergies When Living with Pets
Preventing an allergy before it starts is a wise move. Since a pet owner like you will always be surrounded by animal friends at home, you can follow these helpful tips to keep the allergy symptoms at bay:
1. Replace the carpets, curtains, and upholstered furniture
Pet dander, saliva, and urine contain allergens that tend to stick to animal fur and can attach to cloth and other hard-to-clean surfaces – carpets, curtains and the fabric of upholstered furniture, most especially.
To reduce allergic reactions, you should ditch your carpet and replace it with flooring that is easier to clean, like laminated or hardwood flooring. If you cannot remove it altogether, deep cleaning your carpet can be a viable alternative.
Using blinds or shutters in place of curtains is also a great solution. In addition, choose leather-covered sofas in place of couches that are covered with fabric if your pet cannot help but stay on the couch. Use plastic covers to prevent allergens from accumulating in the furniture.
2. Keep Your House Clean
Frequent cleaning is a good way to keep your home as allergen-free as possible.
To ensure that you get rid of the allergens, use a HEPA-filtered vacuum that traps even the tiniest particles to prevent them from recirculating in the air. Make sure the vacuum is sealed properly. Empty it outside the house to prevent the allergens from spreading.
If you have a furnace or air-conditioning unit, you should also make sure that their filters are cleaned or replaced regularly. Wash all rugs, change the bedding, wipe the walls with a damp cloth, and remove dust as frequently possible.
3. Limit Your Pet’s Stomping Grounds
If you have allergies but cannot bear to be apart from your pet for too long when at home, then establishing some physical boundaries is something you should consider.
For example, your bedroom should always be pet-free. You could also keep your pet from spending time on the living room couch or in the kitchen, where you frequently kickback or work.
In place of spending time with your pet in these areas, you can create spaces specifically meant for your pet elsewhere in the house. Here, you can play and cuddle with your furry friend. Remember to have these areas cleaned regularly, too.
4. Bathe and Groom Pets (and Wash Yourself) Frequently
Regularly bathing and grooming your pets are great for keeping their fur clean and allergen-free. Bathing removes pet dander and reduces allergens by up to 84 percent. Having your pet’s hair trimmed, on the other hand, can reduce the chances of pollen and dust attaching to it.
Bring your pet to the vet to determine how frequently you can bathe him. Generally, weekly baths should do the trick, but checking in with the vet to determine what’s best for your furry friend can help you avoid causing his skin to dry out. You can also try shampoos that not only prevent dry skin in animals but also reduce allergens.
After keeping your pet fresh and clean, you should make sure that you scrub yourself down as well. Make it a habit to frequently wash both hands as well as your face, especially after playing and handing your animal friend.
5. Consider Allergy Testing and Treatment
There are various kinds of allergies out there, so be sure to have yourself tested first to determine whether it’s your pet you’re truly allergic to. Allergy testing can pinpoint the exact allergen you should avoid. Once you confirm your specific allergen, you might also want to consider getting allergy shots to help get rid of the condition altogether.
Understanding Pets and Potential Allergies
Having a pet allergy is a major problem if you adore having animals around. Fortunately, it is possible to manage the condition even when you live with pets. With the right knowledge, perseverance, and patience, you should be able to enjoy the best times with your furry friends while staying sneeze-free.