Allergies and Animals

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 along with their cats and dogs.

If you love your pet and want to keep it, you can.

How to attack your allergy problem:

1. 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 someone discovers he is allergic to a pet, he probably also 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.

2. Insist on thorough testing. Some doctors give only a “scratch test.” This is not conclusive enough. Many other tests that are more informative and sensitive are now available. Note: Allergy testing may be covered under your insurance plan.

3. Don’t give up your animal 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:

4. Invest in a good air purifier. Some small room-size purifiers usually won’t 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, check the “Yellow Pages” under “Air Cleaning and Purifying Equipment.”

5. Desensitize your home. Keep everything as clean and free of dust, hair and animal dander as possible. The following charts offer many good suggestions for creating an irritant-free environment.

a. 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 can build up to an intolerable level. Remember nylon or synthetic carpets attract and hold dust much more than natural wool or cotton does.

b. Special non-allergic washable covers are available for mattresses, box springs and pillows. Check department stores. Also use non-allergic polyester-filled pillows and comforters — not feathers or down.

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. But 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 the dryness of the skin. Give a tablespoon of fat or oil at least twice a week.

Allergic people are generally more sensitive to odors than other people are. Odors can even trigger an attack. Avoid perfumes, scented make-up (hypo-allergenic make-ups are sold at most drugstores), scented facial tissues, insecticides and cleaning fluids. Some laundry detergents and fabric softeners are especially irritating. Stay out of smoke-filled rooms. If you have an unaltered male cat, you will want to have him neutered so he will stop spraying urine. Altered male cats do not smell. After feeding your cat moist or canned cat food, you can remove the dishes and wash them to eliminate cat food odor. Dry or semi-moist food can be kept out between regular feedings.

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.

Kitty litter dust can aggravate allergies, although you may not notice it filtering through the air. 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 and a humidifier in the proper season. These will make allergic people much more comfortable. 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.

Hopefully these pointers will help you control your allergy problem and allow you to keep your pet. You can try our suggestions one at a time, or use them all at once, depending on the degree of your allergy problem. Some people need to use only one or two.

Remember: ALLERGY is a condition caused by many irritants — not just one. Understanding this, finding out exactly what you are allergic to, and eliminating the irritants one by one (not your pet) is the right way to find relief.

One important note:

Very often, people build up a “resistance” to their own pets. Once they made up their minds to keep their pet (whether cat or dog), 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. (Some of this, undoubtedly, is due to increased care and cleaning of the home and pet, as described in this booklet.)

This is just one more reason to not give in to your allergy by giving up your pet. While you are desensitizing your home, your body is probably adjusting to the change. Many an allergy problem has had a happy ending. Most likely, yours will too — both for you and your pet!

“Desensitizing” a Room

Avoid having toys or stuffed animals. Toys should be plastic wood or metal — never fabric.

No perfumes, talc, cosmetics, or flowers.

Install roll-up washable cotton or synthetic window shades - noVenetian blinds.

Wood or linoleum flooring. No rugs of any kind.

Avoid ornate furniture, simple designs catch less dust.

Use closed bookcases.

Use washable cotton or fiber glass curtains, no draperies
window unit or central air conditioning.

No electric fans.

No smoking.

Use covers for pillows, mattress, and box springs. Vacuum all casing frequently. Store nothing under the bed.

Use washable cotton or synthetic blankets, not fuzzy surfaced ones.

Use easily laundered cottoned bedspread.

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.

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, under sink — wherever moisture collects.

Don’t use dried flower arrangements. They can contain molds. Indoor plants can breed mold in their potting soil.

Vent clothes dryer to the outside to help keep cellar dry.

Since humidifiers, dehumidifiers, and air conditioners are constantly exposed to dampness, check them constantly 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. Molds will abound 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.

Check stored foods for possible spoilage and mold growth.