Roughly one in every 10 Americans has pet allergies. Both cats and dogs cause allergies, but cats are twice as likely to cause them as dogs are.
The Source of the Allergy
Many people think that a pet’s fur is the allergy trigger. However, the source of the allergy is the protein found in the pet’s dander (dead skin flakes), urine, and saliva. Hair can make the problem worse, though, because allergenic proteins can get trapped in it.
Some people recommend buying hypoallergenic pets such as a devonrex or Siberian cat or a bichon fries or Chinese-crested dog. These breeds may be less likely to stir up your allergies, but no cat or dog is truly allergy-free.
Pet allergies can result in the following symptoms:
Though many individuals develop pet allergies in youth, other people don’t start reacting until adulthood.
Avoiding Pet Allergies
There are a number of measures you can take to minimize your reactions to pets. Try bathing them weekly, using HEPA filters in your home, regularly laundering linens that pets come in contact with, and creating dander-free zones in your home where your pet is not allowed to go.
If you suffer with pet allergies but still want a new pet (or want to keep your current pet), there’s hope. Allergy immunotherapy can help retrain your immune system to ignore pet dander, rather than react to it. Immunotherapy starts with an allergy serum containing traces of allergens, including pet dander. As the body is exposed to those allergens in gradually increasing amounts, it becomes accustomed to them and stops overreacting to them in ways that leads to uncomfortable symptoms.
Allergy immunotherapy is available through allergy shots or sublingual allergy drops for dog and cat allergies. The allergy treatment drops are safer, so they can be administered at home. (Injections are given multiple times per week at the doctor’s office.)