Allergic to Your Pet? How to Live Happily Ever After with Fido and FiFi

by Colleen Finnegan

We love our pets. Even in tough economic times, studies have shown that pet owners made fewer decreases in spending for pets than they did for themselves. When you have a 4-legged member of the family, it can be particularly worrisome when another family member becomes allergic to this beloved pet. What can you do if time spent with Fido, the dog, or FiFi, the cat, becomes a battle of sneezing, wheezing, itchy eyes and other allergy symptoms?

Many physicians will say that the best treatment for pet allergies is to find another home for your pet. If allergies or asthma are severe, that difficult step may be unavoidable. For people with milder symptoms, it may be possible to live happily ever after with your pet, keeping everyone healthy and under the same roof. Before we discuss those steps, let’s first address what exactly it is that causes pet allergies.

What Causes Pet Allergies: Although many might assume that it’s pet hair that causes allergies, that’s not the case. Instead, the root of the problem is primarily protein in the pet’s dander that sheds from its skin. Saliva from grooming and urine can also be allergy irritants, but the dander is the main culprit. Some pets are described as ‘hypo-allergenic’, but there are no true hypo-allergenic dogs or cats. More likely, they simply cause fewer allergy symptoms than other pets. Since dander originates from the skin, any pet will continue to cause allergy symptoms – even if it had no fur at all! Pet dander is also very tiny and sticky, which means that it remains airborne for longer periods, and it also sticks on surfaces, clothes and other areas, making it difficult to get rid of.

Now for the Good News: There are some ways to help your family and your pet live happily ever after. These steps will help you to reduce your exposure to pet allergens (dander), and they could well be enough to keep you healthy and everyone living in harmony:

  1. Keep Fido Out of the Bedroom: People spend up to one-third of their day in the bedroom. It’s important to keep pets out of the allergic person’s bedroom to lessen exposure to pet allergens.

  2. Encase The Bed: Pet dander settles into bedding and soft furnishings. Cover pillows, mattress, box spring and comforter with allergy bed encasings that have pore sizes small enough to protect against pet dander, such as Allergy Control® Cotton Performance or Pristine Complete encasings.

  3. Wash Bedding: Any pillows, sheets, blankets or other bedding that aren’t encased should be washed weekly in hot water to remove allergens. If you can’t wash in hot water, use a laundry detergent designed to remove allergens in any wash temperature, such as Allersearch Allergen Wash.

  4. Remove or Treat Carpets: Allergens settle to the floor, making the carpet a reservoir of allergy-causing particles. While it’s best to remove carpets, it’s an expensive step and not always desirable. Use specialized carpet treatments instead to inactivate allergens. Also, clean carpets with a HEPA filter vacuum to contain allergen particles and keep them from spreading back into the air.

  5. Use Air Filters to Trap Particles in Your Central System: Keep those tiny pet dander particles from circulating throughout your house by trapping them with permanent or disposable air filters in your home’s central system. Make sure to select high quality filters that provide superior filtration, such as Allergy-Free® Aller-Pure® Gold Filters (permanent) or Allergy-Free® Aller-Pure® M.A.X. Filters (disposable).

  6. Clean Air with HEPA Air Purifiers: Since pet dander stays airborne for longer and doesn’t settle as quickly to the floor, HEPA air purifiers are particularly helpful for trapping pet dander. Some air purifiers have additional carbon filters to remove pet odors for cleaner and fresher smelling air in your home.

  7. Bathe Your Pet: Specialized pet shampoos cleanse and condition fur to lessen the grooming that increases dander build-up. Baths should be done by a non-allergic family member and will need to be done regularly to keep dander to a minimum. In between baths, use specially formulated Pet Wipes to quickly cleanse away allergens.

  8. Wash Hands and Clothes After Holding or Playing with Your Pet: Make sure to wash your hands and possibly your clothes after holding or playing with your pet. Dander has certainly transferred onto you, and the contact is likely to cause allergy symptoms.

These steps are just a few that can be taken to help you stay healthy and keep your pet at home. We’re as loyal to our pets as they are to us, just as the spending on pets during tough economic times has demonstrated. So, if you have pet allergies, we hope you find these steps helpful for a pet-friendly Happily Ever After.