Coping with Pet Allergies
03/01/2011 - By Gayle M. Irwin
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Spring is (hopefully!) just around the corner; with the new season comes allergies for many people. If you or a loved one is allergic to your pets, there are things you can do to help alleviate your symptoms. First, visit with your doctor and even your veterinarian and learn their recommendations for dealing with your allergy. However, there are some simple things that you can do to reduce symptoms if your or a family member's allergies are simply miserable and not life-threatening:
• Create an "allergy-free" zone in your home (such as the bedroom) and strictly prohibit your pet being in that room. Consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows -- allergens brought into the room on clothes and other objects can accumulate on your mattress and pillows.
• Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner in the bedroom.
• Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of the home as well.
• Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander, washing things such as couch covers and pillows, curtains, and pet beds.
• Use a "microfilter" bag in the vacuum cleaner to effectively catch allergens.
• Bath your pet regularly, even as often as once a week, and use a shampoo recommended by your vet.
• Consider getting rid of carpeting and having wood or tile floors as they are easier to keep clean; also carpet collects dust mites, another allergy trigger.
According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), studies show that approximately 15 percent of Americans are allergic to dogs or cats. An estimated one-third of people who are allergic to cats live with at least one cat in their household. In a study of 341 adults who were allergic to cats or dogs and had been advised by their physicians to give up their pets, only one out of five did so. What's more, nearly half of those folks got another pet after a previous one died. It seems, for many owners, the benefits of pet companionship outweigh the drawbacks of pet allergies.
People can be more allergic to cats than dogs or vice-versa. Experts with HSUS state that, contrary to popular belief, there are no "non-allergenic" breeds of either dogs or cats -- even hairless breeds may affect a person's allergies. However, some dogs such as poodles, may be less irritating to people with allergies, possibly because they are bathed and groomed more frequently.
If you have or develop allergies, don't be hasty to blame your pet; ask your doctor to specifically test you or your family member for allergies to pet dander. Also keep in mind that many who suffer with allergies can be sensitive to more than one allergen, such as dust, pollen and cigarette smoke. Allergy shots can help your symptoms but cannot eliminate them completely.
A combination of ways to deal with allergies, including medical, good housecleaning methods, and frequent grooming and bathing of your pet, can help you enjoy a furry friend in your home even if you or someone in your family deals with allergies.
For further information on coping with pet allergies, talk with your doctor and your veterinarian. You can also find more information at the following websites:
Gayle Irwin is a freelance writer and a speaker in schools and libraries. Her publication credits include two children's books about her blind dog, Sage, a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons Learned from the Dog (Sept. 2009), and a story in the Chicken Soup edition Devotional Stories for Mothers (Oct. 2010). Learn more at www.sagestory.com or www.gaylemirwin.com.