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Allergies Health Center

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How Pets and Allergies Can Go Hand in Paw

Understanding pet allergies so you can your have your pet and live with it, too.

Symptoms of Pet Allergy

People, especially kids, may not even know they are allergic. The proteins cause the body to produce histamines, which result in sudden eye itches, wheezy breathing, or a rash.

Children can be declared to be prone to colds and not allergic. Children can also be diagnosed as asthmatic, and pets can exacerbate asthma.

Allergies can be hereditary. If you had asthmatic bronchitis a lot as a child, you may develop a cat allergy later in life. "No one is born with an allergy," Johnson points out, "they develop in some people from exposure."

Interestingly, according to Johnson, there is "very compelling information" that children exposed to animals before their immune systems are fully formed at age 2 are unlikely to become allergic.

Of course, such symptoms can result from other causes. Ask your doctor about a test for pet allergies.

Coping With Pets in the Home

"We have a three-pronged approach," says Georgeson. "First is avoidance. "You need to limit the areas of the home where the animal is allowed, primarily the bedroom and the bed. Don't forget how much time we spend breathing and touching things in that room."

"Shut the bedroom door," Johnson says.

Other tips:

  • Buy a HEPA filter. All three physicians recommended this. HEPA filters can be portable or home-wide.
  • Remove dander-trapping carpets. "Install tile or wood that can be cleaned thoroughly," Georgeson advises. (Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, too.)
  • Wash bedding frequently in hot water (dust mites, which do not come from animals, are also powerful allergens). Washing flushes away dander that has settled on the bedding.
  • In some cases, consider closing off house-wide ducts to the bedroom and using portable heating and cooling.
  • Do not allow the pet in the car or use washable seat covers.
  • Wash your hands after playing with the animal.
  • Clean and vacuum regularly.

Managing Your Pet

All the doctors recommended bathing pets frequently, which in the case of cats can be very entertaining. "Even a damp washcloth on the fur can help," Mitchell says (towelettes are also available at pet stores for this purpose).

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