Are Pet Allergies common?
Allergic symptoms due to pets are common, it is estimated that about 10% of patients may be allergic to animals. Most commonly, patients are allergic to dog and cat allergen, but birds, gerbils, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs can cause allergic symptoms as well. Additionally, outdoor pets such as horses, cows, goats, sheep, and chickens can be problematic to certain patients.
What symptoms do Pet Allergies cause?
Allergic symptoms due to pets can include runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, and itching. They can also cause eye symptoms of itching, swelling, redness and watering. The lower airway can also be involved including coughing and wheezing. For some patients, hives and swelling can be due to pet allergens. The allergen of the pet is found in their dander (shed epithelial or skin cells), in their saliva and in their urine. In general, pet hair is not considered to be an important allergen.
What do Allergists recommend?
For patients with severe pet allergies, they should have pets without fur or feather such as fish, lizards or turtles. A common mistake made by patients is that short-haired animals are less allergenic and do not cause allergies but the length of the hair is not important in the extent of allergen present in the pet. There are some varieties of pets that do not shed which often cause less allergy symptoms in some patients, but not all patients tolerate these or any types of pet exposure.
If you or a family member have pet allergies, before bringing a permanent “new” pet into the home you may consider a trial with the pet prior to making a permanent decision. For some patients it may take several days or even a few weeks before symptoms are clearly noted.
How can I prepare for exposures to pets?
When a patient with pet allergies is planning to visit a home with pets, the key to a successful and enjoyable visit is to plan ahead. Medications usually work best when taken prior to the exposure so that the medication level is at peak levels in the body. Ideally, the pet should be removed from the areas of the home that the patient will be using and the areas should be thoroughly cleaned. Finally, the patient should wash their hands frequently. They should avoid sitting or laying on carpets and should avoid touching their face and eyes if possible.