Overview of a Pet Allergy
A pet allergy is often triggered by exposure to the dander of a pet, which is the dead skin. Any pet can be the cause of a pet allergy, but it is often seen most in cats and dogs.
- Allergies to cats are about twice as common as allergies to dogs and are very common in people who already have allergies and asthma.
- A truly “hypoallergenic” pet does not exist, as the hair is not what causes the allergy – but the collection of dander, urine and saliva in the hair.
- Pet allergens are everywhere because they can be transported on clothing.
- The best treatment for a pet allergy is to avoid the pet altogether by not having animals in your home and avoiding homes with pets in them.
- If you choose to keep an animal in the home, it is best to take measures to reduce the allergen such as not allowing the animal in your bedroom, putting hard floors throughout the home, etc.
Symptoms of a Pet Allergy
A pet allergy can cause inflammation of the nasal passages, which can lead to sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, congestion, cough, postnasal drip, and facial pain. Your symptoms will be worse if you also have asthma. If you have asthma and experience a pet allergy, you may also have difficulty breathing, chest pain, wheezing or trouble sleeping. In some people, skin symptoms will be present and appear as hives, eczema or itchy skin.
Causes of a Pet Allergy
The cause of the allergy to pets occurs when you inhale the pet dander and your body identifies it as a harmful substance. These antibodies that are produced cause an allergic reaction. If you are exposed to the allergen for too long, then you will have chronic airway inflammation.
Risk Factors of a Pet Allergy
You are more susceptible to pet allergies if someone in your family also has an allergy or asthma. If you are exposed to pet dander at a young age, then you are less likely to develop a pet allergy. Some studies have shown that children who grow up with a dog in their home during their first year of life have a higher resistance to upper respiratory infections.
Complications of a Pet Allergy
When inflammation occurs over a long period of time, there is a higher risk of sinus infections. The obstructions make you more susceptible to developing bacteria in your sinuses. People with asthma often have a hard time managing their symptoms during a time of an allergy present. If you have asthma, it is so crucial that you avoid allergens as best as possible.
Prevention of a Pet Allergy
The best way to prevent a pet allergy is to ensure that you do not have pet allergies before you bring a new animal into the home. To make sure that your guests with allergies are as comfortable as possible, you can do simple tasks such as vacuuming regularly, washing sheets and items that the animals lay on. The goal is to get up as much dander as possible.
Diagnosis of a Pet Allergy
Your allergist will begin with a physical examination. The allergist may begin by looking at the lining of your nose to see if the passage appears to be swollen or pale/blue in color. To determine exactly what the allergy is to, he may suggest an allergy skin test. In this test, a small amount of the purified allergens are placed on the skin’s surface and pricked. If you are allergic to the protein, then a small, red bump will appear to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, this test is not possible and a blood test is mandatory. In a blood test, your allergist will pull a sample of blood and see how the antibodies react.
Treatment of a Pet Allergy
The best treatment for a pet allergy is prevention. If you are allergic to pets, then it is best not to adopt a pet. If you are allergic and are going to someone’s house that has a pet, be sure to take something before you leave. Even if you are not planning on being around a pet, it can often travel in areas with no pets, such as on people’s clothing. Avoiding the allergen is sometimes nearly impossible. Your allergist will be able to recommend certain medications, such as an antihistamine to help relieve itching and sneezing.