Anyone who suffers from allergies can undoubtedly tell you of the irritation and discomfort associated with its consequences. For cat lovers especially, a cat allergy can mean a host of problems when it comes to choosing and keeping a cat.
A cat allergy generally stems from a person’s particular sensitivity to cat dander – the skin cells that shed through the cat’s fur. This sensitivity to cat dander can range from minimal – resulting in coughing, watery eyes, sneezing, and itching – to severe – resulting in everything from swelling to shortness of breath.
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, an estimated 10 percent of people are allergic to household pets, cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. About one in seven children between the ages of 6 to 19 prove to be allergic to cats.
A Bit of Feline Fun…
A little girl was wearing one of those Medical Alert bracelets.
Someone asked her what the bracelet was for.
She replied, “I’m allergic to nuts and eggs.”
The person asked, “Are you allergic to cats?”
The girl said, “I don’t know….. I don’t eat cats.”
Cat allergens are everywhere and can be found even in homes and other places that have never housed pets. The reason is that people can carry pet allergens on their clothing. Also, allergens can get into the air when an animal is petted or groomed. Cat allergens can also be stirred into the air where the allergens have settled. This can happen during dusting, vacuuming or other household activities. Once airborne, the particles can stay suspended in the air for long periods.
We wanted to dig a bit deeper to offer some advice to anyone out there suffering from cat allergies so we asked our paw pal Sarah Jones who runs pet blog Crazy Pet Guy to guest post some tips and insights for us. Here’s what Sarah prepared for us:
Dealing With Cat Allergies: Prevent And Lessen Incidents
Cats get a bad rap when it comes to allergies. Among other stereotypes of cats are not being as loving as dogs and having slaves rather than owners or companions, which explains why evil villains love to have them in movies, we guess. However, to help out people who so desperately want the love of a kitty but can’t seem to avoid the excessive sneezing, we decided to compile all of the latest tips and tricks on allergies.
What causes cat allergies?
Let’s begin by knocking one myth straight out the metaphorical park. There is no such thing as an entirely hypoallergenic cat. You could be allergic to the proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine or dander. What is cat dander, you may ask? Cat dander is the microscopic particles of cat skin, which have dried out and float through the air landing on surfaces, such as the floor, our bodies, and even our clothes.
Cat dander would not be that much of an issue if not for a particular compound known as Fel D1. It is a glycoprotein, which is found within glands underneath the cat’s skin, and to some degree, within the cat’s urine and saliva. This Fel D1 situation is further amplified by the fact that when cats groom themselves, the Fel D1 in their saliva combines with the Fel D1 in their hair and skin that increases the allergy effect.
On a side note, however, if your cat is sterilized, researchers have found that these cats produce less Fel D1 than their intact counterparts. Certain breeds are also found to produce less of the compound than others. When people have been exposed to Fel D1, in an attempt to protect them, their immune system releases an antibody known as immunoglobulin E. The further interactions with this hormone causes the release of histamine which why you receive anti-histamines at the pharmacy to help combat allergies.
Allergic reactions can manifest in several ways. They can cause a set of nasal reactions when the Fel D1 is inhaled through the nose. One of the most common is excessive sneezing, a nose that is unable to stop dripping, feeling of having blocked nasal passages and itchiness within the nasal passages.
Another way that an allergic reaction can appear is through asthma attacks. It typically is due to Fel D1 inhaled through the nose and mouth, which then allows it to move into the bronchial tubes inside the lungs. Between 30-40% of children who have asthma are also allergic to the dander found in animals, most notably dander from cats.
However, possibly the worst type of allergic reaction is when the skin develops a rash or hives in response to the Fel D1 protein. Dander landing can cause it to open areas of skin, saliva being placed directly onto the skin by the cat licking it regularly and sometimes, through inhaling the animal’s dander as well. Eczema can even worsen by exposure to cat’s dander.
How do doctors diagnose pet allergies?
If you believe that you or a family member may be suffering from a pet allergy, then you should consider taking them to your local family doctor or allergist to get them tested. Here is a breakdown of what you can expect to happen to receive an accurate diagnosis; your doctor will consider a range of factors including your symptoms, physical indicators, history and blood or skin test.
The doctor may ask you to try changing your place of residence for a while, to see whether your symptoms disappear when you are in a cat free environment. There is little point to removing the pet from your home, as the pet dander will remain in the house for a few months even after removal.
Best treatment for pet allergy
For those who would like to keep their pets, this becomes a bit tricky, as the best course of action, which will result in you being able to avoid medication most of the time, is not to have contact with the animal. However, where there is a will, there is a way, and we have a plan for you to keep your pet and be mostly allergy free.
Let’s begin by laying out the aim of this scheme; the goal is strictly minimizing the level of allergen, which you come in contact with on a daily basis. Step one; under no circumstances may your beloved pet enter your bedroom, you need to keep your sanctuary extremely clean and might even want to use an air cleaner within your room.
The dander from animals easily sticks to furniture and other surfaces. So, be sure to clean the walls, floors, and carpets regularly and try to choose pieces that are very easy to clean and have carpets, which are as thin as possible. It reduces the chances of dander and other allergens from the cat getting trapped within them.
If you are planning on vacuuming because you have built in carpets or rugs that cannot be washed by hand or in the washing machine, then please wear a dust mask. When you are vacuuming the tiny dander particles, it will likely to float up into the air due to their weightlessness and then inside your nose or in your mouth.
Another possible way to help avert the intensity of allergies is to change your clothes after spending a long time around your animals. Air cons and heaters are adept at spreading dander and other pet allergens throughout your home. So, if you do have one, make sure to cover the vents with a sturdy material such as cheesecloth.
If you are living with someone who does not have a pet allergy, be sure to ask them to brush the cat at least once a week and to clean out their litter box. You can also wash your pet regularly to help minimize some dirt particles on them and also the amount of self-cleaning they need to do.
Humans have lived with cats for thousands of years, and they truly are beautiful animals to have as companions. If you or someone you live with has an allergy to cats, be sure to share some of the many ways they can adapt their lifestyle and home to be more conducive to life with their cat, instead of having to say goodbye to their furry friend.
With so many allergy sufferers out there, you may also be interested to read our post on Why Do Cats Eat Grass
PS – check out this fascinating infographic => Allergy Statistics
Credit: Article content contributed by Sarah Jones – a pet lover and owner who wants to share everything she knows about caring for and raising your pets well. To know more about her, visit her blog Crazy Pet Guy.