Americans love their pets and consider them to be part of the family. Unfortunately, around fifteen percent of people are allergic to dogs or cats. This can create the frustrating problem of dealing with the sometimes severe symptoms pet allergies can cause. The treatment of pet allergies can be a difficult problem and may even drive some people to give up their beloved pet. This is certainly not the ideal situation.
What are the causes of pet allergies? Pet allergies are usually caused by the immune system overreacting to proteins that are secreted by glands on an animal’s skin surface. These proteins can become airborne when the animal is brushed or petted which can further exacerbate the problem. Allergies to cats seem to be more common than dog allergies and some animal breeds are more likely to illicit an allergic response than others. There’s no dog or cat breed that’s completely “hypoallergenic”.
One treatment of pet allergies that’s often recommended is the use of HEPA air cleaners. Although HEPA air cleaners are frequently purchased by people who have pets, they may not be as effective as previously thought. A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine in 1998 looked at the effects of HEPA air cleaners on pet allergy symptoms. A group of participants with cat allergies who used air cleaners with and without HEPA filters showed no improvement in the frequency or severity of their symptoms. Although this was a small study that only involved 35 participants, it doesn’t provide a very strong endorsement for use of HEPA air cleaners for the treatment of pet allergies. Although this study didn’t support the use of HEPA air cleaners, it’s claimed that these air cleaners do remove pet dander and some people report positive results from using one. If you can afford to purchase one of these devices, it may be worth a try.
Alternative ways to reduce pet dander are to bathe your pets frequently. This simple act can do much to reduce the level of dander to which you’re exposed on a daily basis. Frequent and thorough house cleaning along with daily vacuuming can also help. Although it may be possible to keep your pet outside, this isn’t the ideal situation for your pet since animals need companionship. A better alternative is to talk to your doctor about medications to reduce the symptoms and the possibility of allergy testing and immunotherapy to reduce the symptoms. Generally these interventions can help but usually won’t completely relieve the symptoms of pet allergies.