About 10 percent of the population experiences symptoms triggered by pet-related allergens, and felines are frequently to blame. Contact with the proteins in cats' saliva, dander (skin flakes) and urine can cause the body to go into overdrive, attempting to fight off these harmless interlopers as it would more treacherous invaders such as dangerous bacteria and viruses.
Based on the symptoms, it can be hard to tell the difference between allergies and other maladies like a cold or the flu, and once you've determined allergies are to blame, figuring out what's sparking them can be even more problematic. But there are some symptoms which, when taken together, might suggest your kitty could be causing the problems.
Ready to find out if some persistent symptoms are being triggered by the presence of your pet? Find out what could be pet-related -- and what you can do about it -- on the following pages.
Has your nose seemed more stuffy or runny since you caved and got your kids a cat? Or maybe it's itching like crazy and you can't stop sneezing? Your new kitty could be the culprit.
One way you can help manage your symptoms is by taking over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants. These sorts of allergy medicines may not ease all of your symptoms, but they should go a long way toward helping control them.
We won't have to travel far to reach the next part of your body that might be experiencing allergy symptoms.
It should come as no surprise that your eyes may be affected by your cat allergy, too. They're nose-adjacent on your face, after all. These symptoms will often manifest as redness and itchiness. Be sure you don't rub your eyes after coming into contact with a cat and its surroundings, and if your allergic reactions are bad, also wash your hands and lint roll your clothes following any potential petting sessions you may indulge in.
To deal with your symptoms, it can help to keep your distance from the cat in question, perhaps by cordoning it in a particular portion of the house -- or at the very least by keeping it out of key areas like bedrooms and laundry rooms. And remember when your kids promised to take care of the litter box if you agreed to get them a pet? Guess what -- now you have a solid line to rely on when they protest! Same goes for grooming; take it outside, too.
Cats can make your throat feel scratchy and sore. In order to help decrease this and other symptoms, you should make sure to vacuum your house regularly (sorry, we hate vacuuming, too). If it's an option, going the hardwood floor route is a way to make this a little easier, since carpet traps allergens. Replace air filters on a routine basis, preferably with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters.
Pets should also never be allowed in the bedrooms of allergy sufferers, considering how much time people spend in them. Keeping cats off the furniture -- if you're able to accomplish such a challenging feat -- is a good move, too. Try to encourage this by offering them lots of cat-only places to cozy up. It can take a while for allergen-reduction measures to kick in, but with a little diligence, you should start to see some improvement in your symptoms.
Apart from giving you a simple sore throat, cat allergies can also exacerbate lung problems like asthma, causing sufferers to cough and wheeze. People who are very sensitive to cat allergens should just avoid close contact with cats -- and beware of cat owners and their homes. That's because unless cat-friendly people also clean surfaces like carpets, furniture and bedding frequently, their homes will likely be loaded with cat dander and all the rest. They can even carry allergens to your house on their clothes.
On the next page, we'll discuss the lynchpin of cat allergy symptoms.
Last but not least, you may be allergic to cats if you develop a rash or break out in hives, especially where a cat has licked, scratched or bitten you. This is one good way, in fact, to narrow down what is causing your immune system to go into overdrive. It may not be entirely the cat's fault (cats can shuttle around lots of other allergens, especially if they're indoor/outdoor), but you've got a pretty good case if you witness direct evidence. A cat scratch -- easy enough to acquire! -- followed by skin irritation could very well equal a pet allergy.
If the allergic reaction is irritating or debilitating enough, visit a doctor to get an allergy test and specific advice on how to go forward. You may need to find a new home for your pet, but hopefully by practicing some of the management techniques we've discussed, you'll be able to mitigate any allergies your family suffers from.
How to help prevent allergies to dogs. Visit HowStuffWorks to learn more about how to prevent allergies to dogs.
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- "Battling Cat Allergies." American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. (June, 15, 2011) http://www.aaaai.org/patients/just4kids/pet_allergies.asp
- Bernstein, Jonathan. "Is Your Carpet Making Your Child Sick?" Baby First Year. (June, 15, 2011) http://www.babyfirstyear.org/2009/07/is-your-carpet-making-your-child-sick.html
- "Cat Allergies." WebMD. (June, 15, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/allergies/cat-allergies
- Commings, Karen. "Living with Cat Allergies." PetFinder.com. (June, 15, 2011) http://www.petfinder.com/your-pet-and-you/cat-allergies.html?page-index=5&query=allergies
- "How HEPA Filters Work." Air Filters and Purifiers.com. (June, 15, 2011) http://www.airfiltersandpurifiers.com/HEPA-filters
- "Human Allergies to Cats." PetEducation.com. (June, 15, 2011) http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=0+1278&aid=144