Pet Allergies: Making It Work
With a few changes you can keep your companion animal -- and manage your pet allergies, too.
Pet Allergies Tip 1: Change Your Environment
- Keep Your Bedroom Pet-Free. Something as simple as making your
bedroom a pet-free sanctuary "can significantly decrease levels of
allergens" in that space, says Alan Goldsobel, MD, a spokesman for the
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Goldsobel also suggest
switching to special bedding designed to be less permeable to allergens.
- Consider a HEPA Filter. HEPA filters remove tiny
airborne pollutants, like dust mites, pollen, and pet dander, from the air you
breathe. "Dander is so airy and light that HEPA filters can filter it out
of the air," reducing your exposure, Chiu tells WebMD. Within a given area
stand-alone filters are typically more effective than a whole-house HEPA
system, Chiu adds. As for those air de-ionizers/purifiers often hawked on
late-night infomercials, they may make allergies worse by releasing harmful
- Learn to Love Housework. "I try to vacuum the bedroom frequently
and change furnace filters to reduce the dander in the air," says Herrig.
Other allergy sufferers tackle pet allergies by shampooing rugs regularly,
changing people and pet bedding frequently, wiping down walls where pets rub,
and dusting often. And to reduce the number of places where allergens can build
up, Goldsobel suggests converting to hard-surface floor and minimizing the
amount of upholstered furniture in your home
Pet Allergies Tip 2: Change Yourself
- Wash Your Hands. Some people bathe their companion animals in
an effort to reduce pet dander, but this approach is "very transient"
Goldsobel tells WebMD. While washing does decrease the amount of shed
allergens, the effect lasts mere days -- while the cat's bad mood may last far
longer! More effective is giving yourself a scrub by washing hands and face
- Mediate With Medication. Over-the-counter allergy medications, such
as antihistamines, can relieve mild allergy symptoms like nasal congestion and
itchy eyes, but they won't help asthma-type symptoms, such as wheezing and
chest tightness. Talk to your primary care physician or an allergist if you
think you'll benefit from prescription allergy medication.
- Consider Allergy Shots. If you know you'll be around pets long-term
-- for example, your young kids have a new puppy -- you might want to consider
allergy shots. These shots are also called allergy vaccines. Allergy shots help
you develop protective antibodies so that you won't have an allergic reaction
when exposed to an allergen. Allergy shots require patience, however. It can
take almost a year of weekly injections before you convert to monthly
maintenance doses, then another 3-5 years of monthly shots before you no longer
have allergy symptoms -- and need no more medication.
- Understand Your Environment. No matter how religiously you
clean, you'll still be exposed to dander. Pet allergens are "sticky,"
making it easy for people to carry them on their clothes. This explains why
you'll find them in places that have no pets, such as schools, workplaces, and
- Expand Your Definition of "Pet." If, after Fido or Fifi have
passed on, you still crave a pet's companionship, think creatures without
feathers or fur. Allergy experts recommend turtles, geckos, lizards, snakes,
fish -- even tarantulas.
Finally, "don't give up hope," says Anthony Herrig. With a few
lifestyle changes and a little help, you can enjoy pets all your life!