Allergies and Pets

Allergies and Animals? No Problem!

Just because you or someone in your family has allergies, doesn’t mean the family pet is to blame. Animal dander (skin dandruff that flakes naturally) is just one of many irritants that can cause allergies but unfortunately, the pet is often the most obvious target.

You don’t have to give up your animal, however. Many people who were told to give up their pets have found other solutions and are living comfortably, right alongside their cats and dogs.

 If you love your pet but suffer from allergies, try these tips below.

How to Address Your Allergy Problem

Go to a reputable allergist. Ask your doctor to recommend a specialist, or call a major hospital or medical association. People with allergies are rarely allergic to one thing. If you discover you are allergic to a pet, you may also have had previous problems with dust, pollen, grasses, plant molds, ozone and other air pollutants, some foods, perfumes, smoke, feathers and other substances. An allergist will conduct tests to see exactly what you are allergic to. The results will help determine your course of action. Note: Allergy testing may be covered under your insurance plan.

Insist on thorough testing. Some doctors give only a “scratch test” when they test for allergies. There are many newer tests that are more informative and sensitive.

Don’t Give Up Your Pet Right Away

Even if the doctor says your pet is part of your allergy problem, remember: It’s not Fluffy or Sam or Muffet you’re allergic to. It’s the dander, excess fur and other non-pet-related irritants. Try the following alternatives:

Invest in a good air purifier. Some small room-size purifiers may not do the job, but “industrial-sized” and more specialized models usually will. If an air purifier has a large capacity, one unit will probably be enough for the average apartment. It can clear the air of animal dander, dust, molds, hair and other airborne irritants. A “mechanical” rather than “electrostatic” type is best because an electrostatic unit may produce ozone, another irritant. Air purifiers that plug into a standard electrical outlet are available. Others can be added to home heating systems. All units have filters that must be changed regularly. For information regarding air purifiers, do a web search for “Air Cleaning and Purifying Equipment” in your area.

Desensitize your home. Keep everything as clean and free of dust, hair and animal dander as possible.

  • Remove rugs. Allergic people should live with as many washable surfaces as possible — the fewer carpets and upholstered pieces, the better. Dander, dust and hair can accumulate on furniture and in carpets and may build up to an intolerable level. Nylon or synthetic carpets attract and hold dust much more than natural wool or cotton does
  • Anti-allergen washable covers are available for mattresses, box springs and pillows. Anti-allergen polyester-filled pillows and comforters are an alternative to feathers or down. These products are readily available at your local department store or online
  • Install roll-up washable cotton or synthetic window shades
  • Avoid having toys or stuffed animals. Toys should be plastic wood or metal — never fabric
  • Avoid ornate furniture, simple designs catch less dust
  • Use closed bookcases
  • Use washable cotton or fiber glass curtains, no draperies
  • No electric fans
  • No smoking
  • Use rubberized canvas or plastic upholstered furniture. No fabric upholstery
  • Paint walls or paper with washable wallpaper. Check wallpaper for any swelling, indication of molds. No pictures or other dustcatchers
  • Use synthetics for pillows, not kapok, feather, or foam rubber, which grows mold, especially in damp areas
  • Keep all clothes in closets. Enclose wool clothes in plastic zipper bags. No mothballs, insect sprays, tar paper or camphor. Keep all doors closed
  • Electric heater preferred over hot air duct. In homes with forced air heat, use filter or damp cheese cloth over inlet to reduce dust circulation. Change every two weeks. Keep bed away from air vent

Follow these easy pointers concerning CATS. Many also apply to DOGS.

  • Groom your cat thoroughly. Long or short-haired, you should comb and brush him every day. Besides keeping the coat glossy, grooming reduces shedding and prevents hairballs. Even if your pet is not accustomed to grooming, he will learn to enjoy it if you start with just a few strokes a day.
  • Baths for cats are usually not necessary. If you really must bathe a cat, use warm water and mild soap, rinse thoroughly, dry well, and keep him out of drafts until he’s fluffy again. Dogs should be bathed and groomed regularly.
  • Feed your pet a balanced diet that includes some natural fat or vegetable oil. This lessens dryness of their skin. Incorporate a tablespoon of oils or fat in your pet's food at least twice a week.
  • Allergic people are generally more sensitive to odors than other people are. Odors can even trigger an allergic attack. Avoid perfume, scented make-up, scented facial tissues, insecticides and cleaning fluids. Use fragrance-free aundry detergents and fabric softeners.
  • If you have an unaltered male cat, have him neutered so he will stop spraying urine.
  • Let someone else do the vacuuming. When you vacuum, you stir up dust and other irritants. If this is not practical, at least open a screened window to allow dust to escape while you clean.
  • Kitty litter dust can aggravate allergies. Experiment with different brands to find one with a very low dust ratio. Avoid the “perfumed” types; plain cat litter is less irritating. Another tip: pour litter slowly into the pan. This keeps dust to a minimum.
  • Use air conditioning in summer and a humidifier in the colder months. Avoid extreme changes in temperature, and avoid strenuous physical activity in very hot or very cold weather.
  • Emotional upsets can also trigger allergy attacks. Avoid undue stress whenever possible.

How To Reduce Mold In and Around Your House

  • Check stored foods for spoilage or for mold growth
  • Bathrooms are popular havens for mold. Wash tiles and grout frequently. Check corners, behind toilet and under sinks — wherever moisture collects
  • Don’t use dried flower arrangements. They can contain molds. Indoor plants can breed mold in their potting soil
  • Vent your clothes dryer to the outside to help keep your cellar dry
  • Since humidifiers, dehumidifiers and air conditioners are constantly exposed to dampness, check them regularly for a musty smell and spray with a mold inhibitor such as Lysol. (Lysol is poisonous to pets — don’t use near pets, their bedding, toys or food dishes.)
  • Don’t allow clothing to remain damp. Dry immediately after laundering
  • Damp shoes, boots and sneakers will rapidly breed mold if not allowed to “air out” and dry
  • Paint basements and other potentially damp areas with a mold-inhibiting paint (available at most paint stores)
  • Dehumidify your cellar. Mold will grows where it is dark and damp
  • Mold may be abundant in the grass during prolonged wet periods of spring
  • Keep yard free of fallen leaves in the fall
  • Allow your home to breathe. Avoid heavy vegetation around and over the house as it encourages dampness and mold growth

ALLERGY is a condition caused by many irritants — not just one. Understanding this, finding out exactly what you are allergic to and eliminating irritants one by one is the right way to find relief. Very often, people build up a “resistance” to their own pets. Once they made up their minds to keep their pet, they found that their allergy problem decreased as time passed. Although they continued to experience allergic reactions to other people’s pets, tolerance of their own pet greatly increased.