Allergy to “furry” animals is caused by the dander (dead skin flakes). In addition to dander, their saliva contains an extremely potent allergen that is deposited on their fur when they clean themselves by licking. The saliva dries on the hair and becomes airborne. Recent studies indicate that urine, from cats and dogs as well as from ferrets, guinea pigs, hamster, and mice, contain allergens, which can also trigger allergic reactions.
There are no non-allergic furry animals. Any animal with fur or feathers can trigger an allergic reaction. These include cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, mice, horses, cattle, monkeys, goats, pigs, chickens, and birds. Even with equal size allergy test results, cats are more allergenic than dogs as a general rule.
Frequently rubbing of eyes or nose leading to itchy red watery eye and stuffy nose might be presenting symptoms. Short of breathe sometimes. Coughing spells followed by wheezing and shortness of breath especially in asthmatic patient are the most bothersome symptoms. Itchy skin or hives after touching the pet are also common.
Symptoms usually occur quickly sometime within minutes after exposure to the animal. For some people, symptoms may build and became most severe 8 – 12 hours after the exposure with the animal.
Tips for Controlling Pet Allergens
Removing the animal from the house is the most effective method of controlling an animal allergy. Although this separation will be difficult, it is best for the health of you or your allergic family. After the removal of pet it usually requires an additional 3-6 months to decrease the animal particles to an acceptable level.
If you cannot part with the animal, the following suggestions will be helpful:
- Never allow the animal in the bedroom.
- Keep the animal outdoors as much as possible.
- Have a non-allergic family member wash the animal.
- HEPA vacuum filter or double bags may help.
- Pre-medicate before an anticipating exposure to animals (visiting friends).
A Word on Carpeting:
Carpets tend to offer a shelter for animal dander, mite, molds, and cockroach particles. Limiting carpeting limits exposure to these potent allergens. Wall to wall carpeting offers the maximum exposure to allergen-laden fabric. Area rugs cover less floor area and are thereby recommended.
A word on Stuffed Animals:
Just like carpet, stuffed animals harbor mite, dust and animals dander worsening the allergy. Children usually love to play and sleep with them. Children with allergies should not play with stuffed animals and if they like to play, it should not be in their bedroom. Worse situation will be sleeping with them because it will cause continuous exposure to this potent allergen for 8-10 hrs during sleep.