July 9, 2019
I Have a Pet Allergy But Want to Keep My Pet
When an allergist diagnoses a patient with a pet allergy, the first line of defense sounds so simple: avoidance.
The most effective way to control a pet allergy is to not spend time around the animals that make your body go haywire. The reality is, many people consider their pets part of the family and will do anything to keep them home where they belong. There are some steps that can help manage the allergy without sending Spot or Fifi to live with Granny.
Create a No-Pet Zone
If there’s one place in the house you really should make pet-free, it’s your bedroom. A good night’s sleep is essential to overall health, and minimizing allergens where you sleep just makes sense. Even if you can’t bear the thought of banishing them from your room altogether, keep them off your bed. Be strong (it’s worth it!).
Clean, Clean, and Clean Some More
There’s no way around cleaning to keep the allergen level tolerable. Whenever possible, enlist the help of a family member who does not suffer from pet allergies. You’ll become a vacuuming whiz in no time and should also steam clean the carpet regularly. If it’s feasible, ditch the carpet altogether in favor of hard-surface flooring that does not trap allergens. Wash all bedding often (including where the pet sleeps). If your pet likes to lounge on upholstered furniture, cover the furniture and wash the covers often. Wipe down walls and smooth surfaces. Eliminate clutter that can hide allergens.
HEPA Can Help
A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) purifier removes tiny airborne microbes like pollen and pet dander from the air and can make a sizable dent in household allergen levels. Placing one purifier in the bedroom and one in a main living area should reduce the overall allergens in the house and provide some relief. You can also get a vacuum with a HEPA filter, which means it will suck up even tiny, sticky particles like pet dander.
Stay Clean Yourself
Considering we are advised to wash our hands thoroughly to prevent all kinds of ailments, it should come as no surprise that hand-washing will send allergens down the drain and keep them away from you. After petting your furry friend, be sure to wash your hands and face. Also, change clothes if you have been in close contact with a pet (but do try to protect yourself from a reaction by not hugging or kissing on them too much!).
Bathe and Brush
Use a gentle shampoo to bathe your pet weekly. This will help minimize dander levels. Brushing them regularly can also help. Just make sure the person doing the bathing and brushing does not suffer from pet allergies and that everything is done outdoors!
Allergy Meds to the Rescue
Depending on your specific allergy and severity, speak to your allergist about over-the-counter or prescription medications that might make the allergy bearable as you take all of the other measures to minimize the allergens in your environment. Options include antihistamines, eye drops, steroid nasal sprays, and inhalers. Even if your family decides not to keep pets in the home, it’s best to have a medication plan for when you visit homes with pets.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) build up immunity to allergens through increasing doses of allergy triggers. If you or a family member have a pet allergy but wish to keep pets in the home, immunotherapy can help build tolerance to one or more allergens over time. This is not a quick fix but can be an effective long-term solution.
Those who are afraid of needles may consider Allergy drops as a pet allergy treatment option. Although this option does not work as well as allergy shots long term, it will help provide relief to those who would otherwise avoid immunotherapy due to being afraid to get shots.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as hypoallergenic dogs or cats. While some people may have worse reactions to certain breeds, you cannot bank on a poodle or terrier not causing any allergy symptoms.
Pets bring endless comfort and joy to their families. Matters get complicated when pet allergies enter the picture, but with perseverance, patience, and guidance from an experienced allergist, there’s a good chance you can keep Fido at your feet without sacrificing your health.