Our dogs, cats and other pets are like family. That’s why it’s so hard to admit that they may be the cause of our watery eyes or itchy noses each time we come into contact with them. But that doesn’t mean that we have to refrain from ever touching our precious pets.
If you determine your beloved furry friend is indeed the culprit of your allergies, the good news is that there are plenty of treatments available. Read on to get the answers you need about related symptoms, treatments and tests for pet allergies.
Symptoms of Pet Allergies
Often confused with hay fever or seasonal allergies, the symptoms of pet allergies are fairly standard:
- Itchy eyes
- Runny nose
- Difficulty breathing
- Facial pressure and/or pain
In more severe cases, some people break out in a rash or hives if skin is exposed to an animal or experience swelling if scratched by an animal.
If isolating yourself from a specific pet (or type of pet, such as a cat or a dog) relieves your symptoms, that’s probably a tell-tale sign that pet allergies to blame. However, symptoms can also occur when the pet is not present because its allergens are transmitted as such small particles. These tiny bits can be spread by the animal’s hair, saliva and dander to make their way into the fabrics of furniture, clothing and carpeting. Because pets often seem to go where we go—in every room of our home, in our vehicles, etc., it’s often hard to avoid their allergens.
If you think you have a dog or cat allergy (or an allergy to any other pet with fur), there are ways to get relief.
Isolation. Until you’re 100% sure of your pet allergy, the best way to avoid symptoms is to refrain from cuddling or petting the animal. It may be torture to spend time away from your pet, but it can help alleviate your symptoms until you know for sure that you are allergic.
Pet-free zones. Establish at least one room in your home where the pet is forbidden to go. Keep the door closed and prevent access in whatever way is necessary, then seek refuge in that space when your symptoms are acting up.
Use an air purifier. A large concentration of allergens can be eliminated with the regular use of a standard air purifier. Look for a HEPA option, as those with this certification are required meet high standards to carry that label.
Remove items that trap dander. If you’ve always dreamed of owning hard-wood floors, now may be the time to get them. Eliminating carpet and other fabric content from the home can help relieve symptoms tremendously. Consider swapping out drapes for blinds and choose leather or vinyl furniture instead of fabric.
Sleep separately from your pet. No matter how comforting it may be to snuggle up with your pet, investing in a bed specifically for them can make a world of difference and prevent unnecessary disruption of sleep due to an allergic reaction.
Clean the house frequently. Dusting and vacuuming at least once a day, in addition to washing clothing and linens that the pets have been exposed to, can help you avoid exposure to allergens.
Wash your hands often. It may seem like a no-brainer, but taking great care to wash your hands after petting the animal or touching its toys can remove a significant amount of allergens from your space.
Bathe the pet often. Use safe, gentle shampoos made specifically for pets to keep their bodies clean and wash away as much dander as possible without causing dryness.
Buy washable car seat covers. If your pet travels often with you and is not confined to a kennel during those rides, purchase washable seat covers so their dander and saliva doesn’t stay with you on future journeys without them.
Prepare a species-appropriate, homemade diet for your pet. By feeding your animal in the most anti-inflammatory way possible, you’ll help remove the allergens from entering their system, which will result in less allergens coming into your environment.
Seek medical treatment. Often times there are over-the-counter remedies or medicines that can be prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of a pet allergy. Consult an allergy specialist to determine the appropriate protocol for your individual needs.
Help is Available
Instead of agonizing over whether or not your pet is the cause of your distress, get an allergy test to find out for sure. The WWMG Ear, Nose & Throat Allergy/Audiology clinic boasts a top-notch allergy testing and treatment program staffed with specialists who care. Schedule an appointment today.
A thorough exploration of the procedures, including how to prepare to get an allergy test, can be found on our Allergy Basics page.