Pet Allergy FAQ
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, approximately 10 million people are allergic to cat dander, the most common pet allergen, and 15-30% of allergy sufferers have allergic reactions to either cats or dogs. Cat allergies are about two times as common as dog allergies. The Humane Society estimates that about two million Americans live with cats to which they're allergic.
It's the job of your immune system to fight off invaders like bacteria and viruses, but sometimes your immune system mistakes harmless proteins for a dangerous invaders. You experience allergy symptoms when your immune system becomes hypersensitive to harmless proteins - and when these proteins cause an allergic reaction, they are known as allergens. In the case of pet allergy, your immune system reacts to proteins found in pet dander (dead skin), saliva, and urine.
The allergic reaction causes a release of histamine and other chemicals in your body, which leads to allergy symptoms like itchy eyes, congestion, runny nose, rashes, wheezing, and sneezing. Cat dander can also trigger asthma attacks and lead to chronic asthma.
Animal dander is dead skin that flakes off in microscopic pieces. Note that animal fur or hair is not the primary cause allergies; however, the fur collects dander and other allergens like dust and pollen.
Allergens can come from any animal with fur or feathers, including cats, dogs, birds, hamsters, mice, gerbils, rats, guinea pigs, horses, goats, cows, chickens, ducks, and geese.
Reptiles and fish do not cause allergies - because they have scales instead of skin.
For years, certain breeds of cats and dogs have been promoted as "hypoallergenic," but in reality, their dander is just as allergenic as that of other breeds. However, short-haired dogs and cats carry less dander around with them, and pets that are groomed more frequently (such as most poodles) also carry less dander. Allerca, a lifestyle pet company, has genetically engineered the world's first scientifically-proven hypoallergenic cats.
Cat and dog allergens are sticky and extremely light, and once they become airborne, they can float in the air for several hours before clinging to a surface. The allergens may stick to walls, shoes, clothing, bags, automobiles, animals - anything - and so it's not surprising that you can find pet allergen everywhere. Even months after a cat owner moves out of a house, potent cat allergen remains in the house.
If you think you may have a pet allergy, an allergy doctor (also known as an allergist or immunologist) can diagnose the allergy and recommend options for allergy relief. Find allergist in your area with the "Find an Allergist" Search, courtesy of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.
It's not always an easy task, but it is certainly possible. P. Cade McDonald founded achooallergy.com after researching allergy relief products that would allow him to spend time with his girlfriend Ali (now his wife) and her two cats, Max and Simba. (See our About Us page for more information about the history of achooallergy.com.)
"I'm violently allergic to cats," says McDonald. "So we had to find solutions to basic problems like 'How are we going to have dinner together at her house?' That's when I started researching allergen avoidance, environmental control, and allergy relief products."
Of course the best way to control your pet allergy is to find a new home for your pet or keep it outdoors; however, these options are not always possible or desired. If you wish to keep your pet indoors, the key to avoiding allergy symptoms is allergen avoidance through environmental control. If you can keep your home and your air clean and free of animal dander, then you will experience allergy relief.
- Allergy Relief Bedding keeps pet dander, mold, dust mites and other allergens off your bed (and out of your breathing zone), where you spend about a third of your life. We recommend that you designate your bedroom as an allergy-free room and do not allow pets inside. See our article How to Allergy-Proof Your Bedroom for more information.
- Air Purifiers remove pet dander and other allergens and pollutants from the air.
- HEPA Vacuum Cleaners trap pet dander and other microscopic allergens in the HEPA filter. If you're not using a HEPA vacuum cleaner, then you're simply spewing allergens back into the air. The Dyson DC 17 Animal Vacuum Cleaner and the Dyson Root 6 Handheld Vacuum Cleaner are favorites among pet owners. For pet allergy sufferers, we recommend hard floors or low-pile carpeting whenever possible. Use an anti-allergen solution to denature (inactivate) allergens. Cat allergy sufferers should also wear a Dust Mask when vacuuming, as the act of vacuuming stirs up the dander.
- Air Filters for your furnace and vents will keep animal dander from recirculating into clean air.
- Anti-Allergenic Pet Shampoos & Cleansing Products will reduce your exposure to animal dander. We recommend that you wash your pet at least once a week. If you are highly allergic, have someone else wash your pet, brush your pet outside, and empty the litter box. Always wash your hands thoroughly after touching your pet.
- The Pet Brush Vacuum Attachment and other vacuum attachments such as the Eureka Power Paw are favorites among our customers who are allergic to pets. The Pet Hair Lifter is another popular item.
- Allersearch Allergen Wash removes pet dander and other allergens from laundry in any temperature water.
- If you have problems with pet odors and pet stains, try pet odor eliminatorsand pet stain removers.