Breathe easy—you can still keep your animal companion!
Although more and more people are discovering the beneficial effects of owning a furry bundle of joy, the fact remains that roughly 15 to 20 percent of the population is allergic to animals. The result? Countless owners in unhappy, unhealthy situations—and their beloved pets are the cause! Allergen is the medical term for the actual substance that causes an allergic reaction. Touching or inhaling allergens leads to reactions in allergic individuals. Symptoms can include red, itchy, watery eyes and nose; sneezing; coughing; scratchy or sore throat; itchy skin, and most serious of all, difficulty breathing.
The most common pet allergens are proteins found in their dander (scales of old skin that are constantly shed by an animal), saliva, urine and sebaceous cells. Any animal can trigger an allergic response, but cats are the most common culprits. People can also become allergic to the urine, dander and saliva of exotic pets such as ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, rabbits and rodents. There is no species or breed to which humans cannot develop allergies. Fur length and type will not affect or prevent allergies. Certain pets can be less irritating than others to those who suffer from allergies, but that is strictly on an individual basis and cannot be predicted.
Once the diagnosis of a pet allergy is made, a physician will often recommend eliminating the companion animal from the surroundings. Heartbreaking? Yes. Absolutely necessary? Not always. Keep in mind that most people are allergic to several things besides pets, such as dust mites, molds and pollens, all of which can be found in the home. Allergic symptoms result from the total cumulative allergen load. That means that if you eliminate some of the other allergens, you may not have to get rid of your pet. (Conversely, should you decide to remove your pet from your home, this may not immediately solve your problems.) You must also be prepared to invest the time and effort needed to decontaminate your home environment, limit future exposure to allergens and find a physician who will work with you. Our three-part program follows:
Improving the Immediate Environment
Decontaminating Your Pet
Taking Care of Yourself