Those furry ears and kitten purrs often make hearts melt. Most of us bond with our pets as if they were a part of our family. While some may embrace their pets into their homes, there are others who must avoid them because of pet allergies. These allergies can be barely noticeable or they can be quite severe. They often happen minutes after coming in contact with the offending allergen.
It’s what you can’t see that is causing all the trouble. Pet allergies are caused by the small flakes of animal skin that are invisible to the naked eye. This pet dander can be found on many places of your home such as your clothes, carpets and furniture. Animal urine and saliva also contain allergens. Anywhere your pet has gone, dander is sure to follow. You may be allergic to cats, rats, guinea pigs, hamsters and birds. Allergens are easily inhaled and remain in the air for a long time.
Most people are not affected by this dander or their pet’s saliva. Yet when your immune system becomes sensitive to the allergen, the body recognizes it immediately and initiates an attack. Your immune system releases the antibody immunoglobulin E, otherwise known as IgE. Each time you come in contact with this allergen, the same reaction occurs. There are mast cells in your nose, mouth and throat. These mast cells release histamine, which is responsible for the allergic reactions.
Signs that you are allergic to your pet include sneezing, itchy throat and an itchy, runny or stuffy nose. Be aware that symptoms of an allergic reaction become worse each time you are exposed to the offending allergen. Those with asthma have to be even more cautious because their symptoms tend to be more severe. Asthmatic patients may have a worsening of their symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. The relationship to allergies and asthma is so close that it is estimated that up to 40 percent of asthmatics are allergic to cats.
Constant exposure to an offending allergen can increase your likelihood of asthma. Asthma is a serious condition in which your bronchial tubes become inflamed and your airways become narrowed. Your airways are responsible for carrying oxygen in and out of your lungs. Your airways may become sensitized to the offending allergen and may become irritated by it. Less air is able to travel through these tubes. If this occurs, you will experience wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing. Asthma is a chronic disease and may worsen each time you are in contact with your pet. You may also have eczema. This is an inflammation of the skin that causes symptoms that include dryness, redness, itching and burning.
The only way to prevent pet allergies is to avoid any exposure to the pet. This will help to lower the amount of pet dander that resides in your home. However, removing the offending pet from your home will not instantly eliminate the dander. As stated before, this dander can remain because of its sticky nature. It can take a period of weeks to many months before the amount of dander is low enough that your symptoms stop. Unfortunately, until then you may experience allergic symptoms. In the meantime, clean your home carefully. Consider replacing bedding, floors, carpets and furniture. If this is not possible, wash everything meticulously. Vacuuming can make allergies worse because it can release the dander into the air.
Some pet lovers refuse to give up their pet. If this is the case, then make sure that you bathe your pet each week. Ban your pet from your bedroom to eliminate contact with high amounts of dander. Keep in mind that this dander stays airborne and can still be found in rooms where there are no pets. If you have carpet, replace it with hardwood or linoleum floors. Ask family members to clean your pet’s litter box or cage. If possible, keep your pet outside. Of course, animals can not be kept outside in certain climates. Even if you ban your pet to living outdoors, dander can still attach itself to clothing and will make its way inside.