As is the case with most allergies, pet allergy can vary in severity among those affected. Some people will have minor symptoms as a result of coming into contact with their family pet, while others will be so severely allergic that they cannot live with a pet at all.
Allergy UK says that pets are the second biggest cause of indoor allergies. 50% of asthmatic children are allergic to cats and 40% to dogs. Rabbits and other small domestic animals can also be sources of allergy symptoms among those sensitised.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the hair of cats and dogs that cause a problem, but a protein allergen that is in the sweat and saliva. Because it is small and very light, it can remain airborne for up to many hours. In dogs the potent allergen is Can f 1. Although the allergen produced by dogs is less potent than that produced by cats, it is small and lightweight, remaining airborne for many hours.
As the pet matures, the production of allergens increases so puppies may be tolerated but older dogs may not.
Symptoms of pet allergy include breathing difficulties, wheezing, coughing, streaming and puffy eyes, hives, skin irritation (for example eczema) and asthma.
What to do if you are allergic to your dog
If parting with your pet is just unbearable then some stringent measures need to be taken to help you cope with your allergy:
- Keep the dog away from the bedroom if at all possible, or confined to one part of the house. A surfactant based lotion can be applied weekly to reduce the allergens on the coat of the animal. PetalCleanse is ideal for this.
- Rigorous cleaning strategies should include vacuuming with a high efficiency vacuum cleaner and damp dusting. Wash fabric cushions and pillows if you can, and keep carpets and soft furnishings to a minimum. Use the HomeCare range to neutralise allergens in the air, on furnishings and in the washing.
- Keep the house well ventilated.
- Use an air purifier either with a HEPA filter or one of the other high quality air cleaners available. This will remove the allergen from the air and help to maintain lower levels of allergen in the environment.
When near the pet or when cleaning (as this can release the allergen into the air) a mask can help.
Read more about pet allergy here.