We have a new guest poster, Dr Janet Tobiassen Crosby, who you might recognize from About.com's veterinary blog.
Since we are talking about allergies this month, she has taken it from the perspective of people allergic to pets. So without further ado, here is Janet on reducing pet allergens in your house...
For humans who are allergic to animals, it is often the amount of hair and shedding that is the big concern. There has even been talk of "hypoallergenic" pets, both dogs and cats. While haircoat plays an indirect role, it is important to note that the allergens responsible for causing trouble in humans are found in the saliva, urine, and dander of pets - not the hair itself. Hair, especially hair that is regularly groomed by the pet, will collect more saliva allergens. Hair also collects dander, dust, pollen and other allergens, so hair is part of it, but not the direct cause.
Allergic sensitivites to a type of animal (dog versus cat) and to individual animals varies with each person. Allergies can develop, get worse, or get better over time. When I first met my husband many years ago, he couldn't walk into my house of 2 dogs and 4 cats without sneezing repeatedly and suffering watery eyes. Now thankfully, that is just a distant memory as we share our home with many pets.
Here are 8 tips to make living with pets easier for the allergic person.
- Minimalize petting and handling of the pet if possible, and always wash hands (and arms) thoroughly. It is especially important to not touch or rub the eyes. Clothes worn while handling animals must also be laundered frequently.
- No pets in the bedroom, on furniture or in close quarters, such as a car. If this is unavoidable, use plastic or easy-to-clean coverings for frequent washings or wipe downs.
- Make sure that your pet's skin and coat are in the best health possible. Talk to your veterinarian for advice. A supplement such as fatty acids, may be of benefit for your pet, particularly if your pet also suffers from allergies.
- Bathe the pet once weekly will help reduce, but not eliminate allergens. It is important to use a gentle pet shampoo (not human shampoo - can be too drying, leading to more dander).
- Use High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters over air vents, furnaces and vacuum cleaners. The allergic person should also wear a face mask when performing these tasks.
- Replacing carpets with tile, wood, formica or vinyl will help reduce the amount of allergens in the home.
- Don't forget the window coverings. Cloth drapes can harbor allergens. Frequent laundering or installing blinds or other "easily cleanable" coverings are recommended.
- Urine is also an allergen. Allergic individuals should not clean litter boxes if possible. If unavoidable, wear gloves and a face mask.
Finally, if you or a family member are allergic, be sure to visit your physician regularly and keep up with allergy medications. Prevention is key to keeping trouble at bay.
Janet Tobiassen Crosby DVM trained at Oregon State University, Washington State University, and the Animal Medical Center in New York City, Janet graduated with a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 1990. She writes for the About.com Veterinary Medicine site, the VetMed Connect blog and her "for fun" blog, AboutVetMed.com.