Treating Dog Allergies
Dog allergies can be treated with standard allergy drugs. Your doctor might recommend:
- Antihistamines, which block the effects of a chemical that triggers dog allergy symptoms; they're sold over the counter -- like Allegra, Claritin, Benadryl, or Zyrtec -- or by prescription. Some antihistamines such as Astelin are available as nasal sprays.
- Decongestants, which reduce swelling in the nose and relieve congestion; examples are over-the-counter Sudafed and Allegra-D.
- Other drugs, which affect allergy or asthma symptoms in different ways; prescription steroids -- such as Flonase or Nasonex sprays -- are a common treatment for allergies. One steroid spray, Nasacort, is available over the counter.
Allergy shots are another option for people with dog allergies. They don't work for everyone, and a full course of treatment can take years. But they can really help some people with pet allergies. Talk about the pros and cons with your doctor.
Your Environment and Dog Allergies
Most allergists agree that although medication may help, the best way to control dog allergies is to avoid contact with dogs. Here are some tips:
- Keep your distance. Don't touch, pet, or kiss a dog. As best you can, avoid going to homes with dogs. If you have to stay in a house with a dog, ask if it can be kept out of the room in which you'll sleep for a few weeks beforehand.
- Use your medicine. If you know that you'll be coming into contact with a dog soon, start taking your medicine a few weeks ahead of time. By taking medication preventatively, you can stop an allergic reaction before it starts.
- Be wary of visitors who own dogs. Dog dander can cling to clothing and luggage. So even if your house guests leave their dogs at home, they can bring the dander with them -- and that can cause you a lot of trouble.
Of course, some of the above advice won't help that much if you already have a dog in your home. Even then, there are still things you can do:
- Clean fanatically. Dog dander can get everywhere. So you need to sweep and mop the floors, vacuum rugs, and clean furniture regularly. If possible, get a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Regular vacuum filters can't catch the allergens and just send them back into the air.
- Make your home easier to clean. Pull up the carpet. Get rid of the rugs and drapes. Ditch the dusty, overstuffed furniture. Reducing the number of items that can catch dust and dander can help with your dog allergy symptoms.
- Filter the air. Central heat and air conditioning can push dog dander into every room in your house -- even those that the dog isn't allowed in. A central air cleaner -- as well as filters on the vents themselves -- can help.
- Keep the dog out of your bedroom. Since you spend a third of every day in the bedroom, it's key to keep it as free of dog dander as possible. A closed door won't completely seal out the allergens, but it will help.
- Don't give the dog free rein. Protect yourself by making other areas of the house dog-free too. Depending on the climate and surroundings, you can also consider keeping the dog outside as much as possible.