Allergic to your pet? Here are some ways to help.
All animals with hair, fur or feathers can cause allergic reactions in people. Dander, the tiny dead skin particles that animals shed, is a particular source of misery, as well as other culprits including proteins in saliva, urine and secretions from oil glands in the skin.
Pet allergens settle on an animal’s fur or feathers and can be dispersed into the air, settling into a person’s eyes and nose as well as clothing, furniture, rugs, and curtains. These allergens are transmitted throughout a home via air-conditioning and heating ducts.
These tiny dander particles are remarkably persistent. Even after a pet has left the premises and a house has been thoroughly cleaned, allergens can remain embedded in furniture and carpeting for weeks.
Yet there are steps you can take to co-exist more comfortably with your pet.
Most experts advise to clean thoroughly and often — both your house and your pet. To remove dust and dander, use damp or electrostatic dust cloths, a damp mop and vacuum with a HEPA filter or a micro-filter bag that trap allergens. Pay special attention to problem areas such as ceiling fans, which are notorious dust collectors. Frequently wash articles such as bedding, couch covers and pillows, curtains, pet cages and beds.
And while they may not love it (understatement), bathing your pet on a weekly basis can reduce the level of allergens on fur by as much as 84 per cent. Products are available that claim to reduce pet allergens when sprayed or wiped on an animal’s fur, but studies indicate they are less effective than a weekly bath. Even finicky felines, surprisingly enough, can become accustomed to being bathed.
Here, some additional steps to ease allergic reactions:
— Create a pet-free zone. Designate a room in your home, preferably the bedroom, to be pet-free. While you can’t prevent dander from sticking to your clothes and shoes and finding its way into your bedroom, keeping your cat or dog out will reduce the levels of allergen in that one room.
— Use special bedding. Allergen-resistant bedding helps to prevent pet dander from settling on your bed. Avoid feather pillows and down comforters, and keep the bed free of dust collectors like stuffed animals.
— Remove dander-attracting furnishings. This means replacing carpets with linoleum or hardwood floors and exchanging your fabric furniture for vinyl or leather. Take down heavy cloth drapes and install plastic blinds instead. These new furnishings will not attract and hold pet dander.
— Use HEPA air and vacuum filters. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for your air ducts can trap allergens in the air. HEPA vacuum bags will reduce the amount of dander rustled up by your cleaning.
— Isolate the litter box. Place it in an area unconnected to the air supply for the rest of the home.
Immunotherapy, or allergy shots, can also help by gradually desensitizing a person’s immune system to pet allergens. Allergy-causing proteins are injected under the person’s skin, triggering the body to produce antibodies which block the allergen from causing a reaction.
Other treatments include steroidal and antihistamine nasal sprays and antihistamine pills. For asthma, treatment often involves multiple medications, sprays and inhalers.
Breeds deemed less allergic include poodles, bichons frises and Maltese and Portuguese water dogs, which have soft or curly single coats. Light cats are though to be less allergic than those with dark coats. Birds that produce large amounts of white powdery dust such as African grays, cockatoos and pigeons cause more problems than others.