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Pets and Hay Fever

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 17 Dec 2010 | comments*Discuss
Pets Hay Fever Symptoms Cats Dogs Birds

It might be a surprise to read that your beloved furry friend is one of the causes of your hay fever symptoms, but this may be an unfortunate reality. Pet hair can be a severe allergen for many people and it's often one of the last potential allergens people consider when it comes to hay fever symptoms. In particular, if you are avoiding pollen and other known allergens but still finding yourself plagued with hay fever symptoms, especially if they are occurring regularly, it's a good idea to consider your pet has a possible source of your discomfort.

Cats and Hay Fever

Cats are a common household pet and should be considered as a possible allergen. The allergic aspect involves a cat's skin, where the sebaceous glands can trigger hay fever symptoms. Because cats tend to lick themselves quite frequently, the allergen is easily spread, sticking to hairs, dust and other areas of your house. As such, any cat can cause your hay fever symptoms.

In fact, even for those who end up choosing to remove a cat from their home because of severe hay fever symptoms, the allergen can still persist in the house for approximately half a year. The allergen itself is also very easily picked up, such that a person who doesn't even own a cat could have detectable levels of the allergen on their clothes from a simple visit to a cat owner's house.

Dogs and Hay Fever

In contrast with a cat's sebaceous glands being the allergen, dogs trigger your hay fever symptoms through their saliva and hair, which easily spread and contaminate your house. Just as with cats, any breed of dog can be an allergic source. The intensity of that source, however, can vary depending on how much fur is associated with the breed as well as the amount of hair that is shed throughout the year.

Other Animals

The most common allergens are related to dogs and cats, but other animals that may still be a source of your hay fever misery include horses, rabbits and birds. Your doctor may check you for allergies to animals through use of a skin test but the more common allergens that are routinely tested include ones such as pollen. Also, don't forget that allergic symptoms can develop at any time, which means that a skin test may be negative now but you could still develop allergies to pets at a later date. If your hay fever symptoms have been persisting and you are avoiding your known allergens, then look to pets as a source, particularly if you are a pet owner or you are regularly exposed to one at a family member or friend's home, for example.

Delayed Reaction

Those who are allergic to pets may not necessarily have an immediate reaction. You may have assumed your pet wasn't to blame because you're not suffering from hay fever symptoms when petting your cat or dog, for instance. Keep in mind that a reaction can take time to occur as your immune system releases inflammatory mediators and mounts an attack on the allergen.

Preventing Hay Fever Symptoms from Pets

Short of removing your pet from the home entirely, there are some excellent ways to minimise your exposure to the allergen and still receive the joys of owning a pet. It is thought that restricting the areas that your pet can roam may help because this reduces the spread of the allergen. Consider keeping your pet out of areas where you spend a lot of time, particularly the bedroom and kitchen. Regular dusting can help to reduce the spread of allergens in your home.

You might also want to have wood floors instead of carpets, as these are easier to keep clean. Regular bathing of your pet can be helpful to reduce the presence of the allergen as well. If you are intent on purchasing a dog and know you are allergic to dogs, then try to choose one with a shorter coat as well as one that doesn't shed excessively.

By taking appropriate measures to reduce your exposure to pets, you can obtain relief from hay fever symptoms while still enjoying the love and companionship of your pet.

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