Pets are an important part of most of our lives. In fact, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI), over 60 percent of US households have pets, and more than 161 million of these pets are cats and dogs.
Unfortunately, environmental allergies are also a large part of everyday lives. The AAAAI notes that 10 percent of people with allergic rhinitis will also be allergic to their pets, and that 1 out of 5 people with asthma will have pet allergies.
Pet allergies can cause allergic rhinitis, which includes sneezing, coughing, congestion, postnasal drip and itchy, red or watery eyes. They can also worsen asthma or cause skin rashes and hives. Pet allergies aren’t triggered by animal hair, but rather by a protein found in pet skin (dander), saliva and urine.
Luckily, allergists can help individuals determine a plan to overcome allergies so they can enjoy the company of their pet.
“Our goal is to help people enjoy the things they love, and, if that includes a pet, we want to make sure we can manage their allergy symptoms,” says Dr. Gregory Bennett, an allergist at Charleston ENT and Allergy.
Here are 10 tips to help manage your allergies so that you can enjoy the company of your pet:
1. Make your bedroom a pet-free zone.
Doing so can help minimize your allergy symptoms at home and while you sleep. Most people spend about eight hours per day in bed, so if a high amount of pet dander is in this area, you’ll have exposure to that allergen for a prolonged amount of time.
2. Wash your bedding in hot water at least once weekly.
Consider implementing this change to kill or remove dander from your bedding. A hot water wash, coupled with a high heat drying cycle, should do just the trick to help you sleep better and reduce allergen exposure.
3. Use a HEPA air purifier or filter.
These will help trap and remove pet dander from the air you’re breathing inside your home. Don’t forget to change your filter based on manufacturer recommendations.
4. Clean your carpets frequently, or opt for wood, tile or linoleum flooring when possible.
Pet dander can get pushed down into the fibers of a carpet, but with wood, tile and linoleum flooring, pet hair and dander is less likely to absorbed. Vacuuming and dusting regularly can help remove these allergens from your living space.
5. Speak with your veterinarian about a balanced diet for your pet.
Putting your pet on a balanced diet can help prevent dry skin and excess shedding of dander. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best food regimen for your furry friend.
6. Keep your pet(s) off of the furniture.
If possible, this is the best strategy to avoid contact with pet dander. If this is not an option, consider having one piece of furniture that is “pet-free” as an alternative strategy. Covering furniture with a sheet or fabric, and cleaning upholstered furniture regularly, will also help.
7. If your pet rides in the car, use covers on the seats and wash them frequently.
Just like bedding and furniture, if your pet travels with you, be sure to clean your car interior regularly. Seat covers can help make the cleaning process simple.
8. Consider pet breeds with a gentle disposition, which can be amenable to more frequent grooming and bathing.
“Contrary to popular opinion, there are no pet breeds that are truly allergy-free,” Dr. Bennett shares. “Allergic dander from cats/dogs is not affected by length of hair or fur, nor by the amount of shedding.”
Though some breeds are considered more “allergy-friendly”, it is likely because they are groomed more frequently, a process that removes much of the dander. An animal that sheds less does not necessarily predict whether it will cause allergy symptoms or not.
9. If you are thinking about getting a pet, consider a trial basis before committing.
Each animal is different, and a pet allergy sufferer may do better with one breed than another; but this is oftentimes difficult to predict. If you’re considering getting a pet, visit Charleston Animal Society online to find out more about their pet fostering and adoption opportunities.
10. Before getting a pet, contact your allergist to determine if you have pet allergies.
Re-homing a pet is not always necessary if you have pet allergies. See your allergist to determine if you have a pet allergy, and together you can make a treatment plan to help you or your child manage allergy symptoms and potentially keep your furry friends.
To help lessen or prevent symptoms, you can also consider immunotherapy; this treatment is available by taking a series of allergy drops beneath your tongue daily, or by getting allergy shots every few weeks. Both of these therapies expose you over time to gradually increasing amounts of your allergen so that your immune system learns to tolerate it rather than causing bothersome allergy symptoms.
All 12 Charleston ENT & Allergy clinics accept evaluation appointments for pet allergies. If you’d like to determine what’s causing your symptoms or develop a treatment plan, schedule an appointment with Charleston ENT & Allergy by calling 843-766-7103 or visiting CharlestonENT.com.