Dog and Cat Allergy Tips

We love companion animals. They are more than just “pets:” they cuddle with us in the sofa, lend an ear during boring drives, accompany us on long walks, and keep us safe during the night. Sadly, a great number of dog and cat lovers are highly allergic to certain proteins found in pet dander, urine, and saliva. Regardless of the money spent on Benadryl, cleaning products, and vet visits, at the end of the day (sneezing or no sneezing included) our precious friends are always there to greet us with a happy face.

If living without a barking/meowing pal is NOT an option, follow these simple tips to reduce the sniffles and prohibit watery, itchy eyes from dampening the wag-a-tail, barks-for-free mood:

  • First off, people who suffer from allergies and asthma should understand what is making them sneeze. Our immune system is supposed to detect and fight foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria. People who suffer from allergies have super sensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins such as those found in pet dander (dead skin cells), saliva, and urine.
  • The best way to stay allergy free is to stray from whatever makes you sneeze. If living without companion animals is not an option, consider adopting a short-haired cat or dog: they shed more and accumulate less dander. Also take into consideration drooling tendencies. Saliva contains allergens.
  • According to Familydoctor.org, cat or dog dander accumulates in dust and can take up to 4 weeks or more to die down. In other words, cleaning shouldn’t be left for the Spring- it should be an ongoing chore for a healthier lifestyle.
  • Bare walls and floors are ideal for allergic “humans.” Animal allergens are sticky and pesky, so removing wall-to-wall carpets to scrub walls and floors is highly recommended.
  • Keep Fifi out of the bedroom, even if the meowing keeps you up all night. Make life a bit more breathable by getting allergen-resistant bedding and impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows. Washable items are a MUST.
  • Dust and dander love fabric curtains, blinds, and carpeted floors. Buy couch covers, pillows, and pet furniture that are machine washable. You can also shampoo upholstery and select from a wide array of lint-type brushes and rollers that use rubber or adhesive sheets to remove dander-filled pet hair.
  • If you don’t have a choice and must stick to the carpet, clean frequently with steam cleaners. Throw rugs can be washed in hot water.
  • Don’t forget your mask! When you vacuum, allergens fly all over the place, making your sneeze more. Vacuums with HEPA filters make cleaning much easier.
  • HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arresting): “A [...] mechanical filter that means it’s a”high-efficiency particulate air” filter. HEPA was invented during World War II to prevent the escape of radioactive particles from laboratories. To qualify as a true HEPA filter, it must be able to capture at least 99.97% percent of all particles 0.3 microns in diameter, or larger, that enter it.”
  • Get Fido and Fifi used to the idea of frequent scrub-a-dubs. Washing your pal once a week can reduce airborne allergens. You can also use disposable wipes in between baths.
  • Contact your vet before you bathe Fido. Some shampoos are better than others because they specifically target the problem: dander. Keep in mind that cats need extra TLC because their skin tends to be more sensitive.
  • Find a volunteer to brush and groom your canine pal outside to prevent dander from getting indoors. Cleaning the litter box outside is also recommended. If you can’t find a friendly helper, wear a mask and gloves.
  • Many websites recommend a closed-litter box for highly allergic folks. Keep the kitty potty away from main airways and consider buying one with a filter.
  • Purchase an air cleaner with a HEPA filter for the central heating or a/c. These help remove pet allergens from the air. Air cleaners with electrostatic filters will get rid of particles the size of animal allergens.
  • There are various types of air cleaners and air purifiers that don’t come attached to the a/c, heating unit, or vacuum cleaner. These can be classified as mechanical filters (fan-driven HEPA filters), electronic filters (ion-type cleaners), or hybrid filters. The AAFA website offers detailed information to help you choose according to your needs.
  • Fill the medicine cabinet with anti-allergy essentials such as antihistamines, decongestants, cromolyn sodium (nasal spray), and eye drops. Consult your doctor or pharmacist before combining any of the above. You can also get a prescription for nasal steroid sprays or ask a specialist about allergy shots or treatments.
  • You can’t blame your four-legged buddy for all your allergies. Go to a specialist to specify which allergens affect you the most. By finding a specific cause, you can target the problem with more efficiency.
  • When playing, consider doing so outside- the dander will fly everywhere, including yourself, but it’ll help minimize indoor contamination.
  • If you come in contact with your pet (or a friend’s pooch) keep in mind that your clothes will probably carry allergens inside the household. Remove clothing before entering bedroom or allergen-free zones (keep a laundry hamper outside the room) and wash with hot water.
  • Make sure you wash your face and hands after playing with your rambunctious buddy.
  • While dusting away, dampen a cloth. Dry-dusting only stirs the tiny particles, making them airborne instead of trapping them. Pledge has special dry cloths that grab dust, dirt, and hair.
  • Change heat and air filters at least one a month.
  • Before buying or renting a house, check if the previous owners/tenants had pets. If so, clean floors and walls thoroughly before moving in.
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