Allergies are an immune system reaction to a normally harmless foreign substance. In scientific terms: Your immune system produces proteins known as antibodies. These antibodies protect you from unwanted invaders that could make you sick or cause an infection. When you have allergies, your immune system makes antibodies that find your particular allergen as something harmful, even though it isn’t. When you inhale the allergen or come into contact with it, your immune system responds and produces an inflammatory response in your nasal passages or lungs. (Mayo Clinic). While pet allergies are commonly associated with cats, dogs, rodents and horses, any animal with hair can be a nuisance for allergy sufferers. Pet allergens are found in dander (dead skin cells) and saliva as well as the hairs.
Symptoms of pet allergies are
- Itchy, runny or congested nose
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Sneezing and coughing
- Under-eye is swollen or the skin is blue-tinted
- Facial pressure and/or pain
- Itchy skin
Some of the symptoms are similar to those of a cold. The general rule is if the symptoms continue for more than a week, it’s probably an allergy.
Avoiding exposure to pets is the best remedy for pet allergy. For many that isn’t a enough good option, because many consider their pets as part of the family. If you like many others don’t want to let your allergies get in the way of your love for pet companions, there is medication to lessen the symptoms. Here are a few of the medications your doctor may prescribe:
- Antihistamines (Clarinex, Astelin, Astepro, Patanase, Claritin, Zyrtec, etc.) cuts the production of an immune system chemical that is active in an allergic reaction and helps to relieve itching, sneezing and runny nose.
- Corticosteroids (Flonase, Nasonex, Nasacort, Omnaris) delivered as a nasal spray can reduce inflammation and has a lower risk of side effects than if taken orally.
- Decongestants may help you to breathe through your nose by shrinking the swollen tissues in your nasal passage.
- Immunotherapy shots desensitize your immune system to a particular allergen.
There are other medications and homeopathic remedies that will lessen the effects of allergens not listed here. Ask your doctor what is the best method for you.
Another method for those with pets to lessen your allergies is to keep your home clean and free of allergens. Here are some tips:
- Bathe or have your pet bathed weekly
- Avoid furnishing your home with dander attracting and harboring furnishings such as carpeting, upholstered furniture, curtains, and horizontal blinds.
- When the time comes to clean your pet’s kennel, litter box or cage, enlist the help of someone without pet allergies.
- High efficiency air purifiers help reduce the amount of airborne allergens.
- The best way to lower your exposure is to keep your pet outdoors if possible.
You can also buy a “hypoallergenic dog”. These pups aren’t really hypoallergenic, this is a term used for breeds (and cross-breeds) that are more suitable for those with allergies.