If you have pet allergies, you’re in good company—so do nearly 10 percent of Americans.
Pet allergies are caused by the human body’s reaction to the proteins contained in animal saliva, skin flakes (dander), and urine. In a non-allergic person, the immune system simply ignores these proteins. But the allergic immune system mistakes these proteins as harmful enemies and releases chemicals into the body in order to fend them off. These chemicals (including histamine) lead to allergy symptoms.
Allergic reactions to pets may include:
- Swelling and itchiness of the eyes
- Hay fever-like symptoms (runny or stuffed-up nose)
- Coughing and wheezing
Mankind has had a long love affair with dogs, but that relationship can be strained when it leads to allergy symptoms including swollen, itchy eyes, child allergies, never ending cold symptoms, or a rash.
While cat allergy is more prevalent, dog allergy still occurs frequently. As with cats, some breeders advertise “hypoallergenic” dogs (small dogs, dogs that shed less), but no dog is truly free of the potential of eliciting allergic reactions due to the proteins found in their dander, saliva, etc.
Statistics show that you are about twice as likely to be allergic to cats as to dogs. You may notice your allergy symptoms kicking up immediately after contact with a cat or even hours later. While some cats are purported to be “hypo-allergenic” (Devon Rex, Sphynx, etc.), all cats have the potential to evoke allergic reactions in some people. Allergens from the environment can get trapped in cats’ fur, and even if they are “hairless,” they still have proteins in their bodily fluids and skin flakes that can trigger an allergic reaction.
Managing Pet Allergies
But the good news is, there are options for living in comfort with your pets—even if you have allergies. Allergy immunotherapy has helped many people overcome the effects of pet allergy. It can be administered through allergy shots or under-the-tongue allergy drops (known as “sublingual immunotherapy”) and helps to desensitize your body to allergens in the environment so that it will stop overreacting to them.
Sublingual immunotherapy operates like allergy shots only the serum is placed under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream rather than being injected under the first layers of the skin. Since it is safer than shots, it can be taken at home.