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- What are Pet Hair Allergies?
- Symptoms of Pet Hair Allergies
- Diagnosing Pet Hair Allergies
- Help for Pet Hair Allergies
What are Pet Hair Allergies?
Many people believe pet allergies are a result of the hair, but most pet allergies are actually caused by dead skin cell proteins called dander that are carried in a pet’s fur. Dander and the FELD1 protein found in saliva are the typical triggers of pet hair allergies. When animals groom, their saliva coats the fur triggering allergic responses in some people. Animals that go outside may also collect pollen, spores and other irritants in their fur, creating more problems for owners with allergies.
Animal allergies range widely in severity, with most people being able to take steps to keep their pets and others having to abstain from contact with animals completely.
Symptoms of Pet Hair Allergies
Pet allergies vary from person to person and can be mild to severe. The most common symptoms are red, itchy skin from contact with the fur and hay fever type symptoms like sneezing, itchy, watery eyes and coughing. Prolonged exposure can worsen symptoms and lead to conditions like eczema, asthma attacks and chronic inflammation of the sinuses. Most pet hair allergies are not life-threatening.
Diagnosing Pet Hair Allergies
Most pet allergies are readily apparent and symptoms appear almost immediately upon contact with an animal. Other times, symptoms are chronic and mild. Allergies may be suspected and medical testing used to confirm the diagnosis. A skin test will be performed to test for dander allergies as well as other common triggers your pets may be exposed to that could be causing the reactions. This test involves scraping the skin and applying small amounts of various allergens to test for reactions. Areas where skin irritation appears indicate a positive result.
Help for Pet Hair Allergies
There are several things those with mild allergies can do to make living with pets more tolerable. First, invest in a HEPA air purifier and vacuum to keep dander and hair under control. Homes with bare floors can also keep allergen levels down. Avoid kissing and hugging animals or getting their hair near the face. Wash your hands immediately after handling pets, and brush and groom pets outdoors as often as possible. Pets should be kept out of the bedroom and off of furniture.
Sweeping and mopping floors regularly will help keep pet hair exposure to a minimum. A steam wand or mop is a great non-toxic way to kill allergens and pathogens without introducing other pollutants to the household. Those with more serious allergies may benefit from immunotherapy, which involves a series of shots given over time to help reduce or eliminate allergic reactions. Antihistamines are sometimes given for periodic exposure, but are not recommended for long-term use.