Information

How to Deal With Cat Allergies


Sharilee and her husband, Vern, live with two cats. Due to Vern's cat allergies, she has done extensive research on the subject.

My Husband With Jo, Our Cat

My Motivation for This Article

The other night my husband asked me a question that went something like this, "how do you tell if you have cat allergies?" The thought of a cat allergy struck me with fear because we had three cats. All kinds of thoughts went through my mind. Would we have to get rid of the cats? It seemed like an impossible situation. After all, the cats were already a big part of our lives. What could we do?

So, feeling desperate, I started to do some research. These were my questions:

  • What are the symptoms of a cat allergy?
  • How do you know for sure that the cats are causing the reaction?
  • And most importantly, what can you do about it?

In this article, I will answer each of these questions.

Cat Allergy Symptoms

Now, if you seldom visit a doctor's office and you don't have any willing cat ladies to take Garfield off your hands for a bit, just use common sense and your observation skills to deduce whether or not it is likely that you have cat allergies.

The symptoms of a cat allergy are very similar to other kinds of allergies, such as allergies to dust mites or certain plants. If you have these symptoms, and they started when you got a cat, there is a very good chance that you have cat allergies:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Red eyes
  • Itching sensation in your eyes and nose
  • Runny nose
  • Skin conditions such as hives, redness, or rash

How to Diagnose a Cat Allergy

There are only two ways to know, for certain, if you have cat allergies. First, you must live without your cat for a few months and see if your allergies go away. This might work if you just happen to have a kind-hearted relative that is willing to "adopt" your cat for a while. If so, go for it! For the rest of us, we have to rely on less-than-perfect methods to determine if we have cat allergies.

The second method is simply to get an allergy test from your doctor. Does this mean that you still have to get a bunch of needles stuck in you? Yes. The test can be done via a skin prick or blood draw.

Understanding Cat Allergies

Well, back to my husband. He does have these symptoms. He sneezes, has a runny nose, and is always coughing. The question now is, what do we do about it? What can cat owners do that find out, too late, that they are allergic to felines?

Well, first of all, let's understand our enemy. The enemy, folks, is not the cat hair. It is the cat dander. Yes, most cats have dandruff and no, it doesn't make them social pariahs. In fact, it's perfectly normal. They get dander, those little white flakes from bathing themselves. The white stuff is actually hardened saliva. Yes, the infamous cat's obsession with grooming can cause us humans a lot of grief.

Cleaning Goes a Long Way!

What to Do If You Already Have a Cat

So now what? Here are some solutions and tips to help you cope with an allergy. First, here are some cleaning/household solutions. Next, I will cover things related to caring for the cat, and finally, solutions for you, personally.

Household Solutions

  • If possible, get rid of carpets and go with hardwood. Carpets trap cat hair profusely. Of course, we don't all have a few grand to replace our flooring, so if you can't do that, read on for advice on how to clean those carpets in the best way.
  • Steam-clean your carpets as often as possible.
  • Get a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter built-in. This kind of vacuum is much better for deep cleaning and getting rid of the particles in the carpets that are causing the allergies.
  • Get a HEPA air filter. These are the best kinds of air filters to clean the air of any harmful particles. You can buy these as free-standing units or you can also get some that are attached to the air conditioner.
  • Clean your house; often and thoroughly! It is a lot of work to get rid of cat hair on the furniture, floors, and walls.
  • If you are in a room where the cats are, open the windows if possible. I know this hard when you are going through a heatwave, or if you are experiencing extremely cold temperatures.
  • Wash any bedding in hot water once a week.
  • Give your cats pet beds and wash them often.
  • The litter box can also make your allergies worse. Try to keep the litter box away from your living area as much as possible.

No More Cats in the Bedroom!

Cat Care Solutions

  • Brush your kitty outdoors once, or even two times a day.
  • Keep the litter box clean. Use a clumping litter and scoop at least once a day. If you can manage two times a day, that is even better.
  • Try to bathe your cat on a regular basis.
  • Try to encourage your cat to shed less. This can be done by giving better quality foods and by adding oil to their diet
  • Have specific "cat pillows" for your cat and don't allow your animals on the human pillows or chairs without the cat pillows coming down first.
  • Put your cats outside as often as possible. I realize some people don't like to let their cats out, but if it is something that you believe in doing, it will help your allergies.
  • Keep the cat out of the bedroom at all times. Having a cat-free zone where you sleep will help obtain relief from your cats. (Of course, as you can see from the pictures, this is easier said than done!)
  • Use products designed to cut down on cat dander. You will have to read the instructions to see how to use each individual product.

Personal Care Solutions

  • Wash your hands after petting the cats.
  • Have a shower before going to bed and don't touch the cat after that. You have to create a separate zone for the bedroom and keep it!
  • Use Vitamin C to help combat allergies.
  • You can also use standard allergy medicines such as Reactine to help overcome the symptoms of a cat allergy.
  • Refrain from holding the cat as much as possible. Now, this is hard if you love the cat, but if you do pet them, always wash your hands afterward.

For More on Cats . .

  • Cat Love: Do Cats Really Love?
    Do cats feel real love? My stand is that they actually do. Living with cats and watching them everyday is good evidence that cat love is a real thing.

Do What Works for You

In conclusion, it is very difficult to deal with a cat allergy when you already own a cat or two . or three. I think you have to decide how far you will go to deal with the problem. Some people may be willing to get rid of their cats. For others, they may choose to use a filter and maintain their close relationship with the cat. This article gives you several options to help tackle the problem.

It is a personal decision and you have to find what works for you. Ultimately, it comes down to what you are willing to live with. As for us, I plan to get an air filter, do more extensive cleaning, and try to keep the cats out of the bedroom!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on January 30, 2016:

@Besarin, thanks for the compliment ... I am glad you enjoyed the hub, even if it didn't exactly apply to you personally. I learned how to do those dividers, using a free photo program, similar to PhotoShop, and they are actually pretty easy to do! Thanks for the great comment, and I am so sorry about the delayed response.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 08, 2015:

@CASE1WORKER, it actually makes sense. I find the same thing with our cats. Two of the cats set my husband off, while the other one does not. It has to do with the amount of dander the cat gives off. I find the shorter-haired one gives a lot less dander.

Thank you so much for your comment, and I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I have been away from Hubpages for quite some time now. Take care and have a wonderful night.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 08, 2015:

@Elias Rufus, you make an excellent point. I agree that a visit to the allergist is very good, to confirm if you have an allergy. My article is aimed at people who tend to self-diagnose (like me!) and look for other clues as to what is wrong with them. Have a wonderful day.

Besarien from South Florida on April 16, 2015:

Luckily I don't suffer cat allergies. I still enjoyed reading this hub. You have presented a lot of sound advice. I think your dividers are beautiful. I may have to rip off your idea but will credit you for it!

CASE1WORKER from UNITED KINGDOM on April 10, 2015:

We have two cats- yet only one of them sets my daughters boyfriend off sneezing- when he visits he has a maximum of half an hour with us before he retreats into the garden or up into the attic room where the cat does not go- the other cat does not seem to affect him- strange?

Elias Rufus on March 09, 2015:

A few years back my neighbor's son had a cat allergy. He was showing the normal symptoms that you pointed out, mainly sneezing, coughing, and dry, red eyes. When they went through the ordeal, they found out they didn't need to get rid of the cat. Like you said, the hairballs and hair sheds were all over the house, the just needed to stay on top of the cleaning. It would seem that an allergist can easily pinpoint ones allergies nowadays. I would recommend having them do a test before making any drastic life changes.

Chad Young from Corona, CA on January 15, 2015:

I love cats but unfortunately my wife has allergies to them. I'm going to have her try some of the remedies while watching the neighbors cat for a few days and we'll see how it goes. Great information, thank you.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on February 16, 2013:

Torri, thanks for the comment. I am glad to get the information out there for people. Have a wonderful night!

torrilynn on February 10, 2013:

Nice hub. It is very informational on cat allergies and on how to figure out the signs. Thanks. Voted up.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on December 18, 2012:

Vespa, thanks for the comment. Yes, we are in the midst now of trying different products so we don't have to lose the cats. Perhaps I will post another hub telling of our experiences. Have a wonderful day!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on December 10, 2012:

It would be sad for a cat owner to develop an allergy to their beloved pets! I do have a cat allergy, and I really appreciate the tips you offer as alternatives to getting rid of the cats. I didn't realize there are products on the market to reduce cat dander. Washing hands is important, too. I'd never thought of bathing a cat. Thanks!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on September 23, 2012:

DDE, thank you so much for the comment. I did quite a bit of research for this one, to get all the facts straight. Take care!

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 18, 2012:

You have explained very well in detail, I don't have cats but definitely a helpful Hub to those who do. Thanks.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on August 09, 2012:

SS, I hear you! When you love your cats so much, they are part of the family. Thanks for the comment and take care!

Sharon Smith from Northeast Ohio USA on August 08, 2012:

Oh thank goodness there are remedies that work cuz if I came up with an allergy to cats, no way could I let my girls go. I love your pics PP and the divider with the eyes is adorable too.

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

Helena, I am sorry to hear about your asthma attack when you were a kid. That's great that have been able to build up an immunity to cats in recent years.

My grandmother has asthma and never even considered having animals inside but when two gray cats named Big Gray and Little Gray came into her life, she let them in the house and the rest is history! She has had cats inside ever since.

That's great that you were able to compromise with a cat that caused less problems for you. Thanks for the great comment and have a good day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

@Ak, I hear you about your spouse not liking cats. My husband didn't like cats to start with, either, but he has now become very fond of them. It sounds like your husband had a pretty severe reaction to the animals and that's too bad for you, as a cat lover.

They are such wonderful animals but seem to cause reactions in quite a few people, unfortunately. Thanks so much for adding your comment to the hub and for such kind words. Have a wonderful day!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 25, 2012:

@Ann, I appreciate the heads up. That is an excellent suggestion for helping cut down on allergy symptoms. And we are a crazy bunch; we would do anything for our cats! Take care.

@Teaches, I am not as familiar with dog allergies but from what I did research, dog allergies are quite similar to cat allergies.

Helena Ricketts from Indiana on July 24, 2012:

My parents discovered my cat allergy when I was 4 years old. I also had childhood asthma and anytime I went anywhere where there was a cat, I ended up having an asthma attack. It was AWFUL! It's not as bad now as it was then. In fact, I actually discovered that if I kept a smaller breed cat in my home that my allergies weren't as bad. My son is also very allergic to cats just like I was.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on July 24, 2012:

Sharilee - people who are allergic usually hate cats - my husband is one of those people...sigh. I love cats but haven't been able to have one since we married and he kept sneezing and swelling up in the face. I figured it probably wasn't fair to make him go through that~

Surprisingly, our malamute fur reminds me a lot of cat fur but he isn't allergic to that so it must be the dander indeed. As a child, I was only allergic to cats if I touched them and then touched my eyes - otherwise I was fine. Our son on the other hand, goes into wheezing from cats if he is exposed too long.

Great information and I love your dividers~ How clever!!

Dianna Mendez on July 24, 2012:

Great advice and very useful for those who suffer from cat allergies. Do you have any advice on dogs? I have family with this problem and it would be great to know how to deal with it. Voted up.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on July 24, 2012:

prairie, I thought of something else yesterday. They make a 99% dust free scoopable cat litter which I use. It really cuts down on the dust when you add it to the cat litter box.

Always love cat people - we're as crazy as our cats!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 23, 2012:

@Deborah, yes, I know what you mean. We've got three cats, too, and I can't imagine living without them. I am glad that your sneezing is only a temporary problem. Thanks for coming by!

@Ann, that's so cute -- they have their own bedroom! Not spoiled at all, nope! And I also like your idea about the curtains, too. Certain types don't hold the particles as much, I believe. Thanks so much for stopping by. Nice to meet a fellow cat lover!

Sharilee Swaity (author) from Canada on July 23, 2012:

@Deborah, that must have been a terrible feeling for you! I am glad you were able to get help from your doctor and find a solution that is good for both of you. Thanks for the comment and nice to meet a fellow cat lover!

@Lucky Cats, it's nice to hear from a cat expert like yourself. Yes, it is the cat dander itself that causes the problems and that is hard to get rid of. With our cats, they always lick each other and bathe each other, so it's even worse. Yes, for cat lovers ,we definitely need options! Thanks for the comment.

Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on July 23, 2012:

I have 4 cats, so I get a lot of cat hair! I was having allergy problems a few years back and the doctor told me the same thing you mentioned in your hub - keep them out of the bedroom. When we recently moved, we moved into a mobile home and now they have their own bedroom, and they aren't the least bit spoiled! Of course during the day, the door to it stays open. The only time I put them in there is at night and when we go somewhere. I don't work, so I'm home with them most of the time. Good points you made on the carpet, too. People with severe allergies might also consider different types of drapes - ones that can be washed.

Great information - voted up.

Deborah Neyens from Iowa on July 23, 2012:

Great tips for cat lovers, Sharilee! I have three cats myself and every once in a great while, find myself with itchy eyes after petting one of them, particularly during shedding season. But nothing too bad. It would take a lot for me to give up my cats!

Kathy from The beautiful Napa Valley, California on July 23, 2012:

Hi there PrairiePrincess! What a comprehensive hub! Every question asked, all information given and many solutions suggested. And the dander vs cat fur thing...so very true! Many still think it's the hair...which can land on one's nose and cause a little tickling/itching...this isn't the same thing. You've really given lots of options for those who cannot bear the thought of parting w/their beloved felines. Thank GOODNESS! I am not allergic...I'd probably have to live in a bubble! Thank you so much for sharing this excellent article! UP Useful Awesome and Interesting.

Deborah Brooks Langford from Brownsville,TX on July 23, 2012:

I have cats and I love cats but I have become allergic to them.. I didn't use to be like this..so I went to the doctor and got medicine and try to keep as clean as possible.. etc. Now I can breathe again.

I love your hub

sharing

Debbie


How to Relieve Pet Allergies

Our love affair with the furry and feathered has produced a nation of pet owners, many of whom need tissues and pet allergy medicines to cope. Can pets be a part of an allergy sufferer's world? In this article, we will tell you the truth about pets and allergies and even give you helpful advice if you have to make the tough decision to get rid of your pet to save your health. Let's get started with some basic information about pet allergies.

Like all allergic reactions, pet allergies are the result of an immune system reaction to a harmless substance in this case, the reaction is to the proteins in pets' dander (dead skin flakes) and possibly saliva and urine (it depends on the breed). Unlike other airborne allergens that come from unwanted creatures, pet allergens come from a cute and cuddly animal, a four-legged or feathered friend whom we adore and who adores us.

Pity pet allergy sufferers, for they endure endless bouts of misery because of their love of or the popularity of pets. After critter contact, many look like they've lost a boxing match: They have puffy faces watery, swollen eyes a runny nose and red, irritated skin. Such reactions aren't always immediate, especially when sensitivity is minor or allergen levels are low. You might spend all day petting a sister's cat and only suffer a tiny itch.

But come 2 A.M., the immune system wakes up and soon you're wide awake rubbing your eyes, blowing your nose, and cursing the cat. Highly sensitive people usually don't have to wait 'til 2 A.M. (or later) for reactions to start. It seems they just look at the cat and experience skin irritations, nasal congestion, and breathing difficulties. For people with asthma, contact with a cat can trigger a severe asthma attack.

Ideally, all allergy sufferers would be able to keep their pets, but what happens when a family member's allergies make it necessary to get rid of a furry friend? Keep reading for advice on how to handle this touchy situation.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Cats, fastidious creatures that they are, are often the cause of allergies because they are so clean! The major allergen of the domestic cat is produced in the saliva and sebaceous (oil) glands in the skin. Cats' constant cleaning causes this allergen to be spread on their fur. When it dries, it flakes off with the slightest movement. Cat allergens are as sticky as tape, so they easily adhere to clothes, carpets, and furniture. Since they're so transportable, these allergens turn up in places cats never visit: cars, offices, aircraft and even the bathtub.

Tips for Reducing Pet Allergies

One of the worst discoveries pet owners can make is that they are (or a family member is) allergic to a pet, especially after strong emotional bonds have formed. If someone in the household has developed allergies to a beloved pet, you must make the heart-wrenching decision about whether or not to keep the animal.

Before jumping to any decisions, though, first have the allergy confirmed by testing. If the test comes back positive, most allergists will recommend that the pet causing the allergies be removed from the home to avoid the possible progression of symptoms and to decrease the amount of medication the allergic person requires. Once you've received the results and heard the recommendation, you'll have to decide what to do.

While allergists are generally correct when they recommend removing a pet, doing so is like losing a family member. Some people, understandably so, are unwilling to give up their pet. Instead, they choose to live with the pet by modifying behaviors and keeping the house as dander-free as possible. If this is the route you decide to take, consider the following suggestions:

  • Wash and brush dogs and cats once a week. Have a nonallergic family member brush the pet outside daily.
  • Make the allergic family member's bedroom and bed strictly off-limits to those with four paws. But be aware that, even though the pet's territory is contained, allergens won't be. Allergens spread far and wide with help from the heating and air-conditioning system, and they get a ride on people's clothing. High efficiency air filters should be used in the bedroom's heating and air-conditioning systems, if the residence has a forced-air system, and they should be maintained every two to three months to help reduce dander distribution.
  • Make it a petty crime for pets to jump on furniture, but do provide them with a nice bed to call their own. If the pet's bed is washable, wash it weekly using hot water. Remember: Dust mites don't discriminate when it comes to dander.
  • Consider keeping pets outside. This may be a good option for the allergy sufferer however, in most cases this is a poor option for your pet, who will probably be happier and healthier in another family's home. Use your best judgment when deciding a pet's fate. Does it like to be outside? Does it have adequate room to run and play? Is the environment too cold in the winter or too hot in the summer? Does it have protection from the elements? Is it accustomed to constant attention from the family? Does it annoy the neighbors by barking?
  • Do not let allergic family members hug, kiss, or cuddle pets. If the momentary lapse of love happens, make sure hands get washed after contact.
  • If possible, use a central air cleaner for at least four hours a day. These air cleaners can help to remove significant amounts of pet allergens from the home.
  • Place the litter box in an isolated area, where it won't be affected by the home's circulation system. You don't want to circulate the allergens and odor from the litter all over the house. Allergic persons should not clean the litter box. If they must, make sure they wear a mask and gloves.

Of the many actions people take to reduce pet allergens, washing a cat ranks right up there with disposing of dead cockroaches or cleaning out scum-filled toothbrush holders. Flying claws and sharp fangs, combined with an angry attitude, do not make for an enjoyable bathing experience for the human washing the cat. You may be able to avoid such theatrics if you condition the cat to tolerate baths when it's a kitten (notice the word "tolerate" and not "enjoy"). Without the benefit of conditioning, the bathmaster must do everything possible to make a soak in suds less traumatic for the scaredy-cat.

Speak in a soft, gentle voice, avoid jerky movements, set the cat slowly in the warm water, and wash/rinse it gently. Afterward have a treat ready that is, if the cat hasn't left home. Ideally, a nonallergic person should do the washing, but finding a willing person is about as easy as cleaning the cat. Whoever has the difficult job, make sure they're dressed in armor, or at least a long-sleeved shirt and goggles, just in case paws and claws turn into propellers. To adequately reduce dander, cats should be washed once a week using warm water and a mild cat shampoo. Good luck.

If you decide to take this prescribed route, don't expect instant relief from allergy and asthma symptoms. It takes an average of 20 weeks, plus daily heavy-duty vacuuming, dusting, and washing, as well as carpet cleaning, to reduce the levels of allergens to those found in pet-free homes. While people with mild to moderate pet allergies may sometimes be able to keep their pets by following the above recommendations, those with severe pet allergies and/or asthma or who suffer life-threatening reactions may need to give them up. Saying good-bye to a beloved pet is never easy, especially for children. But there are ways to make the ordeal a little easier. Try these suggestions for easing the emotional trauma of giving away a pet:

Think it out together:

Start with a family brainstorming session in which each family member presents their own ideas and options for giving away the pet. When children help find a good home for their companion, they are better able to deal with the loss.

Hear ye, hear ye:

Spread the word to family, friends, and coworkers about the need to relocate your pet. Just be sure they are aware of the medical reason so that potential adopters will not think you are trying to pass off a carpet-chewing, ill-tempered problem pet. If you're not successful with personal contacts, advertise your pet in the newspaper's pet section. Again, be sure to mention in the ad that you're giving the pet away for medical reasons, and screen people as best you can to find a good home. The grocery store community bulletin board is another good place to advertise. Put up signs with pictures of your pet and descriptions of its personality.

Creative advertising:

If newspaper and grocery store advertising fails to produce a satisfactory home, it is time to get creative. Try taking your dog to a popular park, carrying a sign describing your plight. Or go door to door with a picture of your cat -- or approach a pet-store owner about selling your bird.

Give them shelter:

Sending a pet to a shelter is a last-ditch option, when all else has failed and your family's health is threatened. Shelter living is very traumatic for a pet accustomed to a household, and older pets probably will not get adopted. There are some very good no-kill animal shelters that are an alternative to city animal shelters, but their resources are limited financially and your pet will do much better in a family environment.

Handling the Demand for a Pet

Even when there's an allergic person in the household, there will be family members (especially children) who believe the world will end if they don't have a pet. Persistent begging can be such a source of irritation to parents that they relent. If a pet is necessary to prevent parental insanity (or for other reasons), remember that pet allergens are the proteins found in dander, as well as the saliva and urine of cats and dogs. Find a pet without fur or one that doesn't produce allergy-causing excretions. Let it be known that the cute and cuddly don't fit into this category.

Tropical fish make the ideal pet for allergy sufferers, as long as the aquarium does not add to the humidity in a room and mold doesn't grow around the rim. Picking out beautiful tropical fish can be a fun family activity and one that may help kids get over not having a four-legged fluff ball. For adults, a koi pond may be a good investment because everyone loves watching these brilliantly colored fish. Some koi are tame enough to be petted, too. Hermit crabs make for an unusual pet, and they are generally low maintenance. Snakes, turtles, salamanders, and lizards are also possibilities, but some of these pets require a lot of maintenance. Many need humid environments, which can set off mold and dust-mite allergies. And some may not be appropriate due to other health or nonhealth concerns. Thoroughly investigate these choices before selecting a pet, and make sure the allergic person does not have any reactions.

Dealing with pet allergies can be a strain on the family. First you need to know the extent of the family member's allergy. Then it may be time to make a hard decision. Whatever you decide, you can follow these suggestions for minimizing the disruption to your life.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Often a nonallergic child resents the fact that a sniffling sibling puts the kibosh on having a pet. One way to heal hurt feelings is to have the nonallergic child volunteer (if old enough) at a local animal shelter. Make sure they have a separate outfit for their volunteer work (and that they change in and out of it before they get in the car!) since pet dander is easily transported on fabric.


How to Deal with Cat Allergies

Itchy, red eyes and constant sneezing are the absolute worst. Whether you ran into a cat accidentally or are visiting a close friend who owns a cuddly kitten, allergy symptoms can hit you hard. But mild or even severe cat allergies don’t have to ruin your day. Here are some effective ways to deal with those stubborn symptoms.

“For more mild allergies, I recommend using a nasal steroid spray each day,” board-certified allergist Tania Elliot told The Active Times. These sprays typically cost $10 to $15 and take about a week to kick in, so this is really only practical if you’re around cats every day. You can consult the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology for a guide to the types of nasal sprays and their usual dosages.

If nasal spray doesn’t seem to do the trick, Elliot then recommends trying an antihistamine. These over-the-counter medications can work quickly and are a smart option for one-time interactions with cats. The AAAII can also help you navigate these medications. Although there can be side effects, like drowsiness and dry mouth, newer medications that are prescribed by an allergist or much less likely to have these effects.

For the most severe allergies, Eliot recommends allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy.

“Allergy shots can cure you of your cat allergy,” she said. Allergy shots contain smaller amounts of the substance you are allergic to. The amount of allergen in the shot builds up over time.

According to the AAAII, immunotherapy consists of two phases: the build-up phase and the maintenance phase. Although this treatment option has some side effects, such as redness and swelling at the injection site, it will work to develop your immunity and tolerance to cat dander. Serious reactions, which are rare, require immediate medical attention. Common symptoms include swelling in the throat, tightness in the chest, dizziness and nausea.

Thanks to these shots,with a few other precautions people with allergies can still own cats, according to Elliot.

“Keep the cat out of the bedroom, have an air filter that is the right size for the room and wash your cat once a week,” she advised.

Even if you don’t expect to be in an environment with cats themselves, cat owners bring dander wherever they go. You may find yourself experiencing a cat allergy even if you steer clear of direct contact.

“Ask your friend to wear freshly washed, or better yet, new clothes when they come visit you,” Elliot said. “Have them shower right before coming as well.”

Whether you’re allergic to cat dander, shellfish or peanuts, there are a number of ways to protect yourself without compromising your lifestyle. For example, you can check out one of the top allergy-friendly restaurants in America.


Consider Medication

Medication is often the first thing people consider when dealing with a cat allergy. Over-the-counter or prescription medication, natural remedies like BioAllers, or a series of allergy shots (immunotherapy) are all worth investigating. Keep in mind you should always check with your own personal physician or allergist before embarking on a new treatment.


How to Deal With Pet Allergies

It’s possible to reduce your symptoms so you don’t have to ditch your dog, cat, or animal-loving partner

If the slightest bit of cat hair or dog slobber turns you into a sniffling mess, you know that pet allergies can be a huge buzzkill. In fact, about 10 percent of people with allergies are particularly sensitive to pet dander—but close to half of all U.S. homes are harboring a dog or cat, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. So whether you have a pet you can’t part with or a partner who comes with a furry plus one, you’ll need a serious defense when it comes to keeping your symptoms in check. To keep your itchy eyes and runny nose under wraps, try these expert tips:

Identify the Problem
If you haven't been diagnosed with pet allergies, get a skin test from an allergist to make sure the animal is actually causing your symptoms. “You don't want to get rid of your pet or spend tons of money on revamping your home if you don't have to,” says Jody Tversky, M.D., assistant professor of allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

Forget the Hype About "Hypoallergenic" Pets
Wondering why your guy's labradoodle or malti-poo is causing you to sneeze? It's probably because there's no such thing as a totally allergy-free pet. "A hypoallergenic dog or cat doesn't exist,” says Tversky. “Though some individual cats or dogs can be less potent than others.” And since allergens are found in the animal's saliva and urine as well as their skin, you may still have a reaction to a breed that’s supposedly safe. So before you offer to take care of your partner’s “hypoallergenic” pet or buy your own, schedule a trial run first to see how you feel.

Find the Right Meds
Different treatment methods will work best depending on how much time you’re spending with a pet. If you’re going to a friend or date’s house that has a pet, pop an OTC antihistamine like Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin about 20-30 minutes before you head over, says Tversky. If you live with the pet or sleep over at your partner’s place pretty frequently, ask your doctor to prescribe you a nasal steroid like Flonase for added relief. These need to be taken every day to be effective and won’t start working until you’ve taken them for about three to five days.

If you need serious relief, you may want to try allergen immunotherapy. These allergy shots involve an injection of pet allergens under your skin two times per week for about six months, then once a month for three to five years, and are effective in about 75 percent of people.

Isolate the Allergens
Make sure the bedroom is permanently off limits to anything with fur, since allergens can disrupt your sleep. If possible, you can also keep the pet secluded to one part of the house—like the first floor, a finished basement, or an indoor-outdoor area. Although these methods aren't 100 percent effective, some studies show that isolating the pet can help relieve some symptoms, says Tversky.

Keep Fluffy Off the Furniture
Any fabric-covered furniture can be a trap for pet dander, so keep animals off these pieces, suggests Sharon Schumack, Director of Education and Programs at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. It’s also a good idea to ditch the carpet, which can harbor allergens. If they love snuggling up on something soft, reserve a pet bed for him that stays out of your bedroom, and wash it often in hot water.

Invest in a Filter
Another way to reduce the amount of floating pet particles in your home or your partner’s is by using a HEPA filter. The filters, though pricey (around $200 per unit), have been proven in some studies to remove airborne allergens such as cat dander, says Tversky.

Check Your Clothes at the Door
As a last-ditch effort, it can also be helpful to shower and change after being around a pet to rid yourself of any lingering allergens. While this shouldn’t be your only defense, it will probably make a modest difference, says Tversky.


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