Don  t Let Allergies Come Between You and Your Pet: 7 Helpful Hints to Reduce Symptoms

As many people who have dogs or cats know, pets are beloved members of the family. So it can come as a nasty surprise when handling or just being around Fido or Mittens starts to cause sneezing, sniffling, and itchy eyes. Allergies can strike at any time—even if you never had them when you were a child. And allergies that went away years ago can have a second act in middle age. Giving away your pet is unthinkable; are you doomed to suffer?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lessen your allergic response. Some are easy, while others—such as avoiding snuggles with your furry friend—are not. First, talk to an allergist. There may be a convenient over-the-counter medication that will keep occasional symptoms at bay, or perhaps you’re a good candidate for regular allergy shots. In addition, following these guidelines may make a difference:

  1. Clean the air. Consider adding mechanical air filters throughout your home. If you have air conditioning delivered through a duct system, a whole house air filtration system might be a better option. Install high-efficiency air filters (HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate air filters, are the best-known type) in as many rooms as possible. They’ll suck up allergy-causing particles shed by your pet.
  2. Pay attention to fabrics. Certain home furnishing materials appeal to dust and dander; try to steer clear of cloth furniture coverings and blinds, and pull up wall-to-wall carpets and large rugs. Be zealous about vacuuming—using a vacuum with a HEPA filter may make a difference—and regularly couch covers, curtain, and wash bedding, the latter in the highest temperature you can.
  3. Ban pets from bedrooms. You may love snoozing with your pooch, but try to confine your contact to times when you’re awake. Since you spend so much of your life in bed, it makes sense to make your sleeping quarters a pet-free zone and a safe haven from potential allergens. Buy allergy-free bedding and definitely put a HEPA filter in the room.
  4. Suds up your four-legged friends. Bathing animals helps remove allergens from their skin. Believe it or not, it’s your pet’s saliva and dander (dead skin and hair cells)—not the animal’s fur—that’s the problem. Saliva and dander contain a protein that adheres to the fur and skin when the animal licks itself. Regular bathing also helps to rid the fur of other allergens including dust mites, pollen, and mold. Even cats can be bathed—albeit unhappily—as long as you use shampoo that’s designed for them; this is particularly crucial for kittens.
  5. Brush regularly. Ideally, a non-allergic household member or friend should brush your pet outside of your house. This will help get rid of dander and extra hair.
  6. Wipe out allergens. Try using specially made pet wipes to keep your cat or dog clean and fresh while removing dander and other irritants.
  7. Forget the face. You may love to nuzzle and kiss your pet’s fur, but putting your nose, mouth, and eyes directly against him is asking for trouble. Instead, show your love by holding, petting and cooing to him. And make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterward to avoid a flare-up.

Reviewed by Jonathan Parsons, MD, associate director of The Ohio State University Asthma Center in Columbus.