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Pet Allergy Guide

Pet Allergy Guide

What is a pet allergy?

Household pets release protein particles from their saliva, urine and body oils.  It is these proteins that can cause reactions in those with allergies, affecting airways and eyes.  These proteins can also irritate asthma, eczema and hay fever.

These particles are extremely hard to avoid in the home and in public areas, as they can travel on people’s hair, clothes and skin to new areas also.

Most commonly it is cats and dogs that cause a pet allergy, but rodents, birds and farm animals can also release irritants to allergy sufferers.

Why does a pet allergy occur?

When proteins are released from a pet, and are inhaled or come into contact with skin, bodies allergic to them will trigger the production of histamine.  Most allergic reactions tend to be hereditary and typical reactions of swelling and irritation to the airways, much like with asthma or hay fever.

Often younger children who suffer from asthma will be more likely to develop a pet allergy as they get older.

 

Symptoms?

Pet allergies do not only occur when touching animals, or even when an animal is present.  Proteins from pet dander can remain in households from owner to owner.

Symptoms of a pet allergy include:

  • Sneezing and coughing or Asthmatic coughing and congestion.
  • Itching, watering and reddening of eyes.
  • Hay fever like symptoms of sneezing and a runny and/or blocked nose.
  • Itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat
  • Itchy and red rashes appearing on skin.
  • Facial pressure and pain
  • Eczema patches
  • Frequent awakening while sleeping
  • Swollen, blue-coloured skin under your eyes

What’s worse is that it can exacerbate other ailments you have, such as asthma, eczema, hay fever, sleeping problems, and other eye problems.

What exacerbates a pet allergy?

  • Other allergens, such as pollen
  • Pollution
  • Chemicals
  • Car fumes
  • Tobacco smoke from cigarettes

Diagnosis?

To diagnose a pet allergy, it is recommended to visit your GP.  A pet allergy can mostly be identified by your symptoms, alongside when and where they occurred.

It is likely that either a blood sample or a skin test will be taken to confirm a pet allergy.

 

What measures can I take to help my pet allergy?

For pet allergies, there are many precautions you can take to make your life easier; here are some of our suggestions.

  • Try and avoid upholstered furniture when possible, as allergens can cling to the fabric. Plastic and wooden furniture are preferable. However products such as Bio-Life Home Cleanse can make upholstered furntiture as allergy-friendly as possible.
  • Air purifiers and filters are excellent for removing pet dander and allergens from the air, which is particularly essential with dogs/cats moving about the home releasing hair and dander particles as they go.
  • It is possible for pet allergy sufferers to own pets (see our “Can I still have a pet with an allergy?” section), however it is advised for people who know they have an allergy to choose to not keep animals. Particularly cats and dogs.
  • When washing bedding, a temperature of at least 60°C is advised, as is washing them at least every week. we would recommend using the Allergy UK award winning Bio-Life Fabri Cleanse to imporve the standard of your wash.
  • Hard floor surfaces are preferable to carpets and rugs, but if floors are carpeted ensure that they are cleaned at least once a week.
  • It is best to keep dogs and cats outside as much as possible.  However when indoors, we would recommend creating pet-free rooms, such as the bedrooms, and possible the kitchen or living rooms.  Wherever you spend most of your time are the best areas to keep dander-free.
  • For hard floor surfaces, keeping them polished will prevent allergens from clinging to them. Steam cleaners and mops will ensure a deep and thorough clean. 
  • Try and avoid touching dusty areas with your hands.  When cleaning ensure you wear gloves, or for more serious allergy sufferers, a mask can also be worn.
  • If possible ask a family member of friend who does not suffer from pet allergies to help when cleaning your pet’s belongings, pet beds, bowls, toys etc.
  • Don’t just stop with the floors – walls and woodwork should be kept as clean as possible.
  • When choosing duvets and pillows, it is best that they can be cleaned.  Basic cotton covers will be ineffective in preventing allergens from entering the duvet, and so mattress, duvet and pillow protectors/encasements should be used.
  • Anti-Allergy beds are ultimate recommendation for keeping all allergens away from you whilst sleeping, and as it is recommended to change your bed every 7 years, allergy suffererers should ensure their bed is anti-allergy. 
  • When choosing a vacuum, ensure that is has an allergen filter, so you will get the optimum allergy protection clean every time.
  • Clutter and soft furnishings (such as cushions and cuddly toys etc), can be the perfect location for allergens to settle.  Try and minimise the amount scattered around your home, and what remains can be protected with allergy blocking sprays.
  • To clean cuddly toys and cushions etc, place in a pillow case, and wash at a temperature of at least 60°C.
  • Do not allow smoking within your house, as tobacco can irritate your symptoms.

Can I still have pets with an allergy?

Whilst it is advised that those with pet allergies should not become pet owners, there are many people who badly want a pet, or do not discover their allergy until they become an owner, and as they are already attached, do not wish to part with their pet.

Here are our tips for keeping a pet if you have an allergy:

  • It is best to use all our tips for keeping your home allergy friendly (see “What measures can I take to help my pet allergy?”)
  • When deciding to own a pet, ask a friend or family member who has a pet if you can trial being a pet owner.  You may not realise the impact an allergy may have on your life, and at least you’ll know what you’ll be dealing with then.  The goal is to make sure any pets you take on will be a permanent fixture, and not a regretted decision.  Should you have taken on a pet which you find unable to care for because of your allergy, it is best to contact the RSPCA for advice.
  • Quite often people who are allergic to pets, have very little to no reaction to fish or turtles; and so they can make a great choice of pet.
  • If fish and turtles aren’t to your liking, rabbits and hamsters still produce allergen proteins, but do not shed as much hair, and often are habituated outside the house, making them a safer choice for allergy sufferers. 
  • Dogs and cats should be cleaned as often as possible, at least once a week to lower the allergen levels in your home.  Thorough drying afterwards is recommended, and pet allergy sprays can be used at this time.
  • Air purifiers and filters are excellent for removing pet dander and allergens from the air, which is particularly essential with dogs/cats moving about the home releasing hair and dander particles as they go.
  • It is best to keep dogs and cats outside as much as possible.  However when indoors, we would recommend creating pet-free rooms, such as the bedrooms, and possible the kitchen or living rooms.  Wherever you spend most of your time are the best areas to keep dander-free.
  • Regular hand washing is encouraged, particularly after touching you pet, or working with their food bowls etc.
  • Showering before bed will help remove allergens from your skins, allowing you an allergy-free sleep.

 

Other complications?

  • Having an allergy to pets makes people more likely to be affected by other illnesses of the airways.
  • Asthma being one of the main problems.  Asthma can be worsened by a pet allergy, and result in the asthmatic suffering severe asthma attacks.
  • Pet allergy sufferers are more susceptible to ear infections.
  • The allergens in the air and on surfaces and skin can cause difficulties with sleeping patterns, and in worst case scenarios, insomnia.

Medication available?

It is important for pet allergy sufferers to find out which medication they should be taking by visiting their GP; as they are at risk of developing asthma, or worsening an already existing asthma problem.

Whilst medication can improve and control a pet allergy, it cannot cure it.

Immunotherapy – This is an injection or drops given to people with multiple allergies, which works against the allergy for three years. 

Eye drops – Used to lessen inflammation in the eyes

Nasal sprays – Used to lessen inflammation of the nasal passage, and reduce symptoms.

Antihistamines – Tablets or medicine which blocks the histamine produced by your body to reduce the allergic reaction.

 

Helpful products?

  • Homes with allergy sufferers benefit greatly from having an air purifier or filter working quietly away at removing the allergen particles from the air.
  • Vacuum cleaners with inbuilt filters designed to illuminate per dander and other allergens from your carpets and rugs make a big improvement from normal vacuums.
  • Steam cleaners and mops will give a much deeper clean to both hard and soft surfaces, and kill harmful allergens in the process.
  • Encasements and protectors for all your bedding including pillows, duvets and mattresses is strongly advised for an allergy-free night’s sleep. 
  • Light technology can be used as a drug-free treatment for the nose.  The LifeMax Sneezer Beam relieves stuffy/runny noses and watery eyes for allergy sufferers.
  • Bio-Life and Allergy Angels offer a range of sprays to protect your surfaces, carpets, furniture, upholstery, air, and even to spray directly onto your pets.  These are highly effecting at combating all irritants to your pet allergy in your home.
  • Nasal sprays, vapour sticks and gels can all be used to lessen and eliminate your pet allergy symptoms.

 

Stats

  • In the UK, an estimated 21 million adults suffer from at least one allergy.
  • Pets are the second largest cause of allergy in the home in the UK.
  • 50% of asthmatic children in the UK are sensitised to the allergens of cats.
  • 40% of asthmatic children in the UK are sensitised to the allergens of dogs.
  • Pet allergy is rarely caused by animals that don't have fur, such as fish and reptiles.
  • Being exposed to pets at an early age may have an impact on your risk of pet allergies. Some studies have found that children who live with a dog in the first year of life may have better resistance to upper respiratory infections during childhood than kids who don't have a dog at that age.
  • Pet allergies are common. However, you're more likely to develop a pet allergy if allergies or asthma runs in your family.