Pet allergies: all you need to know

What are pet allergies?

Pet allergies occur when the immune system of an infected person deals with the proteins secreted by the bodies of some animals as harmful and irritating substances. This results in a strong immune reaction when exposed to those proteins that exist in dead skin cells falling from animals, their saliva, or urine, which is usually attached to animal fur that causes allergies. This article provides you with all you need to know about pet allergies.

Animal fur in itself does not cause allergies. But it helps spread allergens that stick in the air on carpets and furniture. This allergy results from domestic pets such as cats and dogs. Infection with pet allergies leads to symptoms similar to those of seasonal allergies. The danger of continuous and long-term exposure to allergens may lead to a chronic allergy in a person which can develop into asthma attacks.

Symptoms of pet allergies

The following symptoms appear in people who suffer from pet allergies. They are:

  • Sneezing,
  • Sunny nose.
  • Redness
  • Eyes itching.
  • Nasal congestion.
  • Itching in the nose, roof of the mouth, and throat.
  • Cough.

We should note that the symptoms become worse if the person already suffers from respiratory problems such as asthma. If the allergy has a connection to asthma, you may suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Chest tightness or pain;
  • A whistling sound in the chest that accompanies the exhalation process.
  • Insomnia, which results from coughing and shortness of breath.

Causes of pet allergies

Cats and dogs

The primary causes of pet allergies are cat and dog allergens that we find in the skin cells they shed (the dander), as well as the animal’s saliva, urine, sweat, and fur. Lint is a particular problem because it is so small. It can remain in the air for long periods of time if there is minimal air circulation. Lint can also get caught easily in upholstered furniture and can stick to your clothes.

Pet saliva can stick to carpets, bedding, furniture, and clothing. Dry saliva can fly in the air.

Hypoallergenic cats and dogs may shed less dander than other species. But there are really no non-allergic breeds.

Rodents and rabbits

Pet rodents include mice, jerboas, hamsters, and guinea pigs. In rodents, allergens typically exist in hair, dander, saliva, and urine. Dust from dirt or sawdust at the bottom of cages may contribute to the airborne dispersal of rodent allergens. In rabbits, allergens exist in dander, hair, and saliva.

Complications of pet allergy

The followings are some of the complications of pet allergy:

  1. Sinus infection: It results from continuous exposure to allergens, which leads to infections in the nose, and increases the chance of bacterial infection.
  2. Asthma: People with asthma and pet allergies are at increased risk of severe asthma attacks that require immediate treatment with medication.

Pet allergy diagnosis

The diagnosis of pet allergies is carried out by one of the following tests:

  • Skin allergy test: In this test, the doctor injects allergens under the skin to monitor the body’s reaction to it, as a red spot that causes itching appears 15 minutes after the injection.
  • A blood test: This test is carried out to look for antibodies that attack the allergen.
  • Removing allergens: The doctor may ask you to keep the pet away from the house for a period of time to see if it causes the allergy or not.

Treating pet allergy

The doctor chooses the appropriate treatment for each person based on the symptoms he suffers from. The type of medication that he can administer to the patient are:

  • Allergy medications: They relieve the symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, coughing, etc.
  • Cortisone nasal sprays: They relieve nasal symptoms such as inflammation and control hay fever symptoms.
  • Decongestants: They remove nasal congestion symptoms. In addition, they help shrink swollen tissues in the nasal tracks and make it easier to breathe through the nose. Some over-the-counter allergy tablets combine an antihistamine with a decongestant.

Oral decongestants can increase blood pressure and shouldn’t be taken if you have high blood pressure, glaucoma, or cardiovascular disease. Talk to your doctor about whether you can safely take decongestants.

Over-the-counter nasal spray decongestants may reduce allergy symptoms for a short time. If you use a decongestant spray for more than three days, it can cause nasal congestion.

Pet allergy (dog)
  • Allergy needles: They have a longer-lasting effect and are given by a specialist in case the symptoms are severe.
  • Antihistamines: They reduce the production of a chemical secreted by the immune system that triggers an allergic reaction; thus, helping to relieve itching, sneezing, and a runny nose.
  • Immunotherapy: It is usually used when other simple treatments haven’t worked. Here you can “train” your immune system not to be allergic to an allergen. Immunotherapy consists of a series of allergy shots.

Every week, you take one or two injections you containing small doses of the allergen. In this case, the animal protein that causes the reaction becomes less effective over time. The dose is gradually increased, over a period of usually 4 to 6 months.

  • Nose quenching: You can use a very small pot or a specially designed squeeze bottle to flush thickened mucus and irritants from your sinuses with water and salt (saline solution).

If you are making your own brine, use sterile, distilled water that is free of contaminants. You can either boil and cool it before use or filter it through a pore filter with an absolute opening size of one micron or less. Also, make sure to rinse the irrigator after each use with clean water, and leave it open to air dry.

When should you see a doctor?

Sometimes a person may not know if he suffers from allergies or from the symptoms of the common cold. If the symptoms persist for two weeks or more, it will be allergy symptoms and not cold symptoms.

The person should see a doctor if symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, severe nasal congestion, and sleeping difficulty are severe. If these symptoms worsen quickly, you must go straight to the emergency service in the hospital.

Prevention of pet allergies

Here are some tips that you can follow to reduce the risk of pet allergy:

  • Keep pets out of the bedrooms.
  • Get rid of carpets that can pick up animal fur and dander.
  • Make sure to clean the animals regularly.
  • Use the vacuum cleaner to clean the house regularly.
  • Wash your hands after touching a pet.
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