Womens Health

Allergies and Animals

Allergies can certainly make it difficult for people who love animals.  Whether you own one yourself, or just enjoy playing with them, pets can cause major allergy problems for many people.  Approximately 10% of the Unites States population is allergic to either dogs or cats.  If, however, you can't avoid animals, or you don't want to avoid animals, there are a number of things that you should know about allergies and animals.

Where Do Pet Allergies Come From?

Pet allergies aren't caused, as many people assume, by the pet's fur.  There are glands in the animal's skin - regardless of what type of animal - that secret tiny allergens or dander.  It both lingers on the skin and goes into the air.  These allergens are also in an animal's droppings, urine, and saliva.  As a result, people who are allergic to animals experience anything from mild sniffling to life-threatening asthma attacks when they are around these animals.  Cats do tend to be more difficult for allergy sufferers - but this is not always the case.  People can also be allergic to birds, hairless cats, and other animals that some might say are hypoallergenic or allergy-free.  Researchers have even found that cat allergens can cause allergic symptoms in houses where a cat hasn't lived in three years!  The microscopic flakes of dander float through the air and attach to carpets, furniture and other items and are powerful.

Coping With A Pet If You Have Allergies

Should you discover that you, or someone in your family, have pet allergies, there are some tips for coping.  If, however, you find that someone in the family has a severe allergy, you may have to make the difficult decision to get rid of the animal.  The health of your family certainly needs to come first.  If you are one of the 100 million families in the United States with some type of pet, here are some suggestions for coping with pet allergies.

If you really want to keep a pet despite your allergies, you can try to limit your exposure to the allergens in your home.  Use plastic mattress and pillow covers.  Get rid of carpeting; put in hardwood flooring and washable rugs; clean often.  Keep the pet in certain areas of the home only; it shouldn't be allowed in your bedroom or in your bed, and it should be kept out of any other areas where you spend a lot of time.  Make sure to keep the pet very clean, and speak to your veterinarian for suggestions about the best shampoos to use.  You can certainly start a course of allergy shots for yourself, or anyone in your family with allergies.  At the moment, there are no statistics about the effectiveness of such shots, but informal studies show about a 50% success rate.  Keep in mind, however, that it takes 3-4 years to complete the entire series of shots!  It's also possible that there will be a vaccine for cat allergies in the next few years.

Non-Allergic Breeds?

Some people hope to find a breed of cat or dog that is non-allergic.  This is not really a possibility, as the allergens are on the skin, not on the hair.  Some people may find, through experience, that they can tolerate being around certain types of dogs or cats and not others.  Keep in mind, however, that a pet that seems to be alright for you in a shelter or pet store may not be alright in your house.  Allergens accumulate and you may find that you have allergic symptoms at home that you didn't have when you were initially with the animal.

Products For Animals?

Finally, while some people claim that there are great products on the market to treat an animal and neutralize the allergens, most of these products are not effective.  Some people recommend Allerpet-C for cats and Allerpet-D for dogs.  These products have to be rubbed into the animal's skin quite frequently to keep the allergens from rebuilding.  It is worth a try, if you're willing to commit to daily or weekly washings with these products.  

You may decide to purchase fish or reptiles if your family desperately wants an animal, but can't tolerate allergies.  There are certainly alternatives to having an animal in the house that is furry.  This decision is one that you, and your family, will have to make with the suggestions above and with your own unique situation.

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