Keep Your Pet!

How to coexist with your favorite furball -- symptom-free

You love animals, but do they make you sneeze? If so, you’re not alone.

Roughly 10 percent of Americans are allergic to animals, according to the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America (AAFA). Of people with asthma, up to 30 percent have allergic reactions to their pets.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat. Your allergy is to dander, the skin cells shed by dogs, cats and other animals. It’s not to fur itself. Even dogs that don’t shed a lot, like poodles, still shed some dander; get close enough and you may well sneeze.

But you don’t have to pack your pet off to the pound! Instead, follow some easy steps to minimize your exposure to dander.

Make the Bedroom a Pet-Free Zone

Kicking your pets out of your bedroom is the most effective step to minimizing the amount of pet dander you’re exposed to in your home. According to the AAFA, you can spend up to half your day in your bedroom, which, if you share the space with your pets, amounts to a lot of time spent in direct contact with pet dander. No wonder you wake up stuffy every morning!

Clean and then Clean Some More

Pet dander can stick to the walls, floors, carpets and furniture, as well as to your pet’s bed and favorite toys. Removing it takes serious elbow grease: Scrub the walls and the floor thoroughly every week or so, wash upholstery covers in the washing machine and steam clean any carpets or rugs.

Install a HEPA Filter or Three

HEPA filters can capture 99.97 percent of allergen particles, according to the AAFA. Your air-conditioning and heating systems are ideal places for HEPA filters, and you can also get HEPA filters that fit into your vacuum cleaner. You may also want to add air cleaners with HEPA filters to rooms that you spend a lot of time in, like your bedroom and the living room, and run them for at least four hours every day.

Wash That Pet Out of Your Air

Give your pet a weekly bath. Regularly shampooing your pet’s fur will prevent the build-up of dander and reduce the amount of allergens on your pet by more than 80 percent, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

Washing your pet might seem like a scary prospect at first, especially if you have an energetic pet that’s likely to soak you and the entire house. But the more you wash your pet, the easier it will become. If you don’t like the idea of struggling to wash your pet yourself, take a trip to your local pet grooming parlor. Most grooming parlors have pet washing services, which takes the hassle out of bathing your animal—for a fee, of course. Increasingly common: Wash-your-own-pet stores.

Ask Your Vet for Advice

While it’s a good idea to talk over your pet allergies with your own doctor, don’t overlook your veterinarian’s office. Your vet may be able to recommend further steps you can take to reduce pet allergens in your home, and may offer products such as shampoos, to clean your pet more effectively.

It’s not easy living with allergies, especially when you’re in love with the thing that’s causing them. If you take all the steps above and are still suffering, talk with your allergist about taking allergy shots to desensitize you to your pet’s dander. They’re not a surefire cure, and they're more effective with cats than with dogs, but they can definitely improve some people's pet allergies.

Reviewed by: Marc J. Sicklick, MD, FAAAAI, FACAAI

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