By Lee Stephens
To understand how to help relieve a common complaint of “pet allergy,” take an expert’s look at how the term came about and what means can be used to reduce if not eliminate its annoying effects.
Contrary to popular belief, people are not allergic to animals’ hair but to a protein found in animals’ ‘dander,’ i.e., dead skin flakes, saliva and urine, such proteins are dispersed into the air and can land on the lining of the eyes, nose, and the lungs.
Animal dander is one of the most common allergens in the US with its prevalence in 62 percent of all households caring for an indoor pet, according to experts at the Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care, a South Florida-wide center with offices in all three counties.
Animal allergens may be found in 90 percent of all homes and public indoor areas such as schools, even if an animal has never lived within the building.
Typical symptoms which often develop immediately or within a few hours of exposure can include sneezy, itchy, runny or a congested nose; itchy, red, swollen eyes; overall skin itching or hives; wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
Limiting pet contact may help but, sadly, the most effective way to fight dander is by removing the pet from the home, even having the pet adopted by a caring family. Keeping an animal outdoors is only a partial solution.
If your pet remains at home, minimize contact by keeping the pet out of the bedroom and common rooms. Weekly baths can help reduce the amount of allergens, too. A non-allergic family member should clean the litter box and the pet’s sleeping area, and perform regular grooming which should take place outside the home.
Hard-surface flooring (i.e., tiling or wood) is preferable to rugs but if wall-to-wall carpeting exists in your home, be sure to use a vacuum with an HEPA filter. Pleated, MERV 12, A/C filters are best, replaced every three months.
When considering furnishings, select vinyl or leather upholstered couches or chairs for areas where a pet most often visits or sleeps; encase cushions, pillows and mattresses in protective coverings as well.
If maximizing environmental conditions to prevent spread of ‘dander’ remain insufficient, consider immunotherapy, also kind as allergy shots. Treatments are recommended for a more permanent solution and can be effective in controlling symptoms, sensitivity to new allergens and limiting the risk for developing asthma.
Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care, South Florida’s largest allergy and asthma center, is staffed by Board-certified physicians with extensive experience treating adults and children, both in testing and treating allergies, asthma and other immune system disorders.
Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care provides 17 conveniently-located offices throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. To schedule an appointment, call 1-877-4-ALLERGY or visit florida-allergy.com.