Do your eyes water and does your throat itch? Do you start to sneeze as soon as a cat or dog enters a room? If furry animals cause an allergic reaction in you, you’re not alone. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reports that an estimated 15% of the U.S. population is allergic to cats and dogs. Despite the likelihood of a doctor’s recommendation to live without a cat or dog, approximately one-third of the allergy population lives with an animal companion.
If you are lucky enough not to suffer from allergies to cats or dogs, you probably have a family member or friend that keeps his or her distance from your beloved pet. Ever wonder if some of the pet allergy “facts” you’ve heard are untrue? Here are some common misconceptions about pet allergies.
Myth #1: If You are Allergic to Cats and Dogs, You Can Never Live with One
Your allergy to cats and dogs may be diagnosed later in life, and if you already live with a cat or dog, you are faced with a difficult decision: does your pet stay or go? While most allergy specialists would strongly recommend rehoming your pet, for many allergy sufferers that’s simply not an option. Additionally, some allergy sufferers assume that the longer they expose themselves to the source of their allergies, the more their symptoms will improve. Unfortunately, for pet allergy sufferers, this is not true.
If you’re planning on keeping your pet or getting one, consider the following tips to reduce your allergy symptoms:
- Don’t let your pet sleep in your bedroom.
- Use HEPA air filters throughout your household.
- Have surfaces cleaned regularly to remove animal hair and dander.
- Get rid of carpet or have it steam cleaned often.
- Ask non-allergic friends or family to help with transporting your pet and hygiene (i.e., brushing and bathing).
- Talk to your allergist about your medication options.
Myth #2: Some Dogs are Completely Free of Allergens
As an allergy sufferer, a hypoallergenic dog may sound too good to be true. While there are many breeds that are classified as hypoallergenic, such as a Maltese or Poodle, no dog completely lacks allergens. Hypoallergenic dogs are considered as such because of their non-shedding coat, which means less dander. Although there is no guarantee that a hypoallergenic pet will eliminate all allergy symptoms, it should reduce them significantly.
Myth #3: Pet Hair Triggers Allergy Attacks
Most people, with or without allergies to cats and dogs, assume that an allergy attack stems from the animal’s fur. When you are allergic to a pet with fur, your immune system is sensitive to proteins in the pet’s urine, saliva, or dander. Although it’s important to clear your home of pet hair as much as possible, it isn’t solely responsible for your sneezes and trouble with breathing. Pet allergens (all that dander, urine, and saliva) can cling to pet hair, making people assume that pet hair is the culprit.
Myth #4: Homes With Pets are the Only Places with Pet Allergens
If you have a severe allergy to pets, you probably do everything you can to avoid going to a home where a pet may reside. Although this may help keep your allergy attack at bay, depending on the severity of your allergy, you may be at risk anywhere you go. Since pet allergens can travel on clothing and exist in the air, they can be present in homes that don’t have a dog or cat.
Myth #5: Babies and Children are More Likely to Be Allergic to Pets
When starting a family, many soon-to-be parents are hesitant to keep a pet because they worry that their child may end up being allergic to it. Although babies and children may have an allergic reaction to a pet in the home, some studies have shown that early exposure to pets can help strengthen immune systems and reduce the risk of allergies in infants. If you are unsure about incorporating a cat or dog into your home, talk with your doctor or your child’s pediatrician.
Myth #6: Sneezing, Coughing, and Watery Eyes are the Only Pet Allergy Symptoms
When you’re allergic to animals, you may experience a variety of symptoms. While some of the telltale symptoms include sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes, you may also experience congestion, skin irritation, shortness of breath, severe rashes on the face, neck, and upper chest, as well as asthma attacks. If a cat licks your skin or scratches you, wash your skin well to avoid an allergy complication.
Myth #7: Only Cats and Dogs Cause Allergies
Even if you are allergic to cats and dogs, you may still have your heart set on having a pet. Sadly, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), small animals can trigger an allergy attack too. While the thought of a hamster, guinea pig, or even a bird might seem like a great alternative to a cat or dog, even these small pets still have dander.
Myth #8: Once Your Animal Leaves, Your Symptoms Will Improve Immediately
As much as pet owners with allergies want to keep their beloved cat or dog in the home, sometimes it’s not in the best interest of your health. If removing your pet from your home is your last option, try to find a good friend or family member who can give him or her the care he or she deserves. Once your animal has left, it’s important to remember that your allergy symptoms won’t disappear immediately. It may take days, weeks, or even months of cleaning and filtering to get rid of the pet dander lingering throughout your home.
While many allergy sufferers are quick to avoid animals, there are proactive ways to manage pet allergies and enjoy the company of a dog or a cat. If you are allergic to your pet, remember to have them brushed regularly, make use of air cleaners, and resist the temptation to kiss or hug them. We can’t expect anyone to realistically follow that last tip, but do your best!
Your allergy issues should be under control now. But if you’re interested in improving your cat or dog’s health too, take a look at our extensive selection of pet supplements. They can help support your pet’s immune system and keep them running, jumping, and playing with you far into the future.