As Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month comes and goes, it’s essential to know what causes pet allergies in particular and the best ways to prevent allergy attacks from occurring. However, if you’ve been most recently diagnosed with a pet allergy and have pets you want to keep, in this article we’ll show you an overview of pet allergies and how to prevent allergy attacks when owning pets.

What Causes a Pet Allergy?

Pet allergies are the immune system’s way of trying to fight foreign substances, such as viruses and bacteria. Usually, this response would protect people from diseases, but an over-sensitive immune system causes pet allergies. Reacting negatively to harmless proteins in urine, saliva, and dead skin cells, usually, these produce an allergic reaction. The allergens that cause these reactions can cling on to furniture, clothing, and other surfaces for over several months. One of the most common assumptions about pet allergies is that pet fur is the primary allergen causing the attacks. It’s the dander, saliva, dust, and pollen that collects on the animal’s fur that causes the reaction.

Pet allergens are everywhere, so it can be hard to prevent the allergic reaction when it happens. This is because people carry pet allergens on their clothing with them all the time. Allergens can also be released into the air when grooming or petting and can be stirred into the air when dusting, vacuuming, and other activities. These particles, once released into the air, can be suspended for long periods if not cared for.

What Are the Symptoms of a Pet Allergy?

Some of the symptoms of a pet allergy can include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Chronic cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy Eyes
  • Stuffy Nose
  • Inflammed Eyes
  • Redness of the skin

If your allergen sensitivity is minor, it’s important to note that symptoms may not appear until after several days of contact with the pet. However, for those with severe allergic reactions to animals, within 15 to 30 minutes, a highly sensitive person can experience coughing, wheezing, and have shortness of breath. Such contact can also trigger an asthma attack and potentially lead to chronic asthma.

How Does a Doctor Diagnose a Pet Allergy?

Doctors can diagnose a pet allergy based off of symptoms, physical examinations, medical history, and test results. Blood tests or skin tests can aid in the diagnosis, and allergy testing can show if there is a sensitivity to the proteins in the animals’ fur, saliva, or dander. For those considering removing their pets, pet allergens can still exist in the home and cause symptoms months after the animal is gone.

Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

How to Live with Pets if You Have Pet Allergies

If your pet triggers your asthma, it’s important to recognize that sometimes, especially considering the severity of your allergic reaction, keeping your pet may not be the best option. However, if you consider your allergy to be manageable, here are some ways you can help manage your allergies while still keeping your pet:

  • Work with your GP or asthma nurse to discuss an action plan, such as allergy shots or medication
  • Try to keep your pet out of your room wherever possible
  • Groom and bathe your pet regularly
  • Play with your pet, but don’t kiss or hug them
  • Regularly clean your home and keep it free from dust
  • Hire someone to take care of your pet, such as walking them outside or clean their cage
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • If you have an animal that lives in a cage, such as a gerbil or bird, keep them in the cage at all time.

Having pet allergies can be hard, but it can be manageable if you work with your GP about potential solutions. If your allergy medication helps you, then huzzah! You can keep your pet! On the other, if you are unable to keep your pet, then find solace in the fact that the animal you love will be able to have a more fun, active life with their new owners. If you’re considering hypoallergenic animals, know that no matter how little they shed, all animals shed and there’s still the possibility of an asthma attack when the dander hits the air. Contact your allergy doctor about this prospect and see whether or not owning a pet is right for you.