An estimated 15% of people have allergies to dogs or cats, with about twice as many suffering from cat allergies as dog allergies. If you have a severe pet allergy, your best strategy may simply be not to get a dog or cat. However, if your pet allergies are relatively mild or if not having a pet is simply out of the question for you, there are steps you can take to lessen your pet allergy symptoms and help you and your pet to share a home comfortably.
Know the Facts. Pet allergies are caused by allergens in pet saliva, urine and dander. Dander is the dried skin cells shed by your pet. Dander can cling to pet hair, which is what causes the allergic reaction, not the hair itself. It can also float in air.
Despite rumors of non-allergenic breeds, there are none. Even hairless breeds have some allergy-causing dander. At best, there are some breeds, such as small wire-haired breeds, that may be less of a problem.
Pet-allergy symptoms include itching eyes, running nose, wheezing, sneezing and, in severe cases, asthma.
Be Sure You Have a Pet Allergy. Get tested to be sure that you are allergic to dogs or cats, since there are many other allergens that affect humans. There is no point in taking drastic steps to reduce pet allergens, or not getting a pet at all, if you are allergic to something else.
Eliminate Allergens from Your Home. One of the best strategies to reduce your pet allergy symptoms is to eliminate allergens from you home as much as possible. Allergen reducing or eliminating steps to take include washing bedding (yours and your pets) frequently, using plastic covers on mattresses and pillows, replacing carpeting with hardwood floors, using washable rugs, installing a central HEPA air filter or using room-size HEPA air filters, cleaning and vacuuming regularly, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter or microfilter bags, and buying leather furniture or using sofa and chair slipcovers that can be removed and washed.
Have a Pet-Free Zone. Designate a room or rooms in your home where your pet is not allowed. At the least, this should be your bedroom. Use a HEPA air filter to keep the air clean in this space.
Wash Your Pet. Giving your pet a bath is one of the best things that you can do to relieve pet allergy symptoms, since, according to The Humane Society of The United States, washing your pet weekly can reduce allergens more than 80%.
Treat Your Symptoms. Talk to your physician about how best to treat your pet allergy medically. Mild pet allergy symptoms may respond to over-the-counter medications, while more severe symptoms may be lessened with allergy shots.
www.cuhumane.org, Allergies to Pets: Facts and Myths
Jeanie Lerche Davis, www.webmd.com, How Pets and Allergies Can Go Hand in Paw
www.hsus.org, Allergies to Pets/The Humane Society of The United States
sweet-lucys.com, Allergic to Dogs?