ALLERGIC TO YOUR PET?
You don’t have to give up your dog, cat or other pet if you suffer from allergies. Here are some ways to cope
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My husband’s allergies to our dogs were mild until last year. Now he has developed asthma and has a twice-daily routine of medication and an inhaler.
Allergies. They’re the bane of people who love pets but develop a runny nose, itchy throat and watery eyes in their presence — or worse, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing.
It’s one thing to know from childhood that you’re allergic to dogs, cats or other animals, but when allergies develop later in life, after you’ve built a relationship with members of the animal kingdom, it’s hard to give them up.
The good news is that in many cases, you don’t have to. Medication and environmental changes can help you and your pet live comfortably together. Here are some ways to keep allergy symptoms at bay.
? Bathe your pet frequently. It’s not fur or hair that causes allergies, but saliva, urine and dander (microscopic dead skin cells). These substances contain proteins that cause allergic reactions, and frequent bathing helps to remove them from fur. Our dogs are bathed weekly, and it helps. Some cats take well to baths, believe it or not, but if yours doesn’t, at least wipe him down with a damp cloth daily.
? Shower, wash your hair and change your clothes after roughhousing with your dog or cuddling your cat.
? Keep pets off the bed or out of the bedroom entirely. Reducing the presence of allergens in your sleeping area will help to ensure a good night’s rest. Instead, enjoy your pet’s presence while you’re both awake.
? Clean often. Use HEPA air purifiers and filtering products. Use a double or microfilter bag in your vacuum. Have a family member wipe down the inside of your car after your pet has been in it, or take it to the car wash.
? Redecorate. If possible, replace carpeting with hard flooring such as wood or tile. Limit floor coverings to machine-washable throw rugs (and use hot water on them). If you must have carpet, choose one with a low pile, and steam-clean it often. Steam-clean furniture as well. Declutter your home. The fewer items that collect allergens, the better.
? Avoid being with your pet in small, enclosed areas such as veterinary exam rooms. Veterinarian Kathryn Primm (who is herself allergic to pets) has some clients with allergies who wait in the lobby or outdoors while their pets are being examined. “We have alerts on their charts; ‘client allergic to dogs,’” she says.
? Consider the type and size of pet. It’s just common sense that a small dog produces less allergens than a big one, but did you know that female cats produce less allergens than males? If you are adding a pet to your family, these are factors to consider. Be aware that there’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet. Some animals produce less allergens than others, but it varies by individual. You can’t assume that just because a pet has a certain type of coat or is a certain breed that you won’t react to him.
? Consult a board-certified allergist. In the bad old days, allergists used to recommend getting rid of pets, but now most of them recognize the importance of the human-animal bond and will help you develop a treatment plan to manage your symptoms. For many people, immunotherapy (allergy shots) is an effective long-term treatment. They helped Elizabeth Tobey, who as a young child was so allergic she couldn’t have pets. “I had a series of allergy shots as a kid, and over time have built up some tolerance through exposure,” she says.