Both cats and dogs can cause allergies.

© iStockphoto.com /Michael Pettigrew

Cat and Dog Allergens

Cats can cause allergy symptoms without even coming into direct contact with a person. Cats' allergy producing substances (allergen) are primarily in the saliva. These substances dry on the hair after the cat grooms himself or herself. These dried substances then become airborne. Since they are very light, they can stay in the air for a long time. Since they are sticky, they get caught on furniture, walls, carpet and elsewhere. A cat-allergic person can have symptoms when entering a home that was previously inhabited by a cat. It takes about six months after the cat is gone for most of the allergen to be eliminated. Cat allergen can also stick to clothes. People bringing their "cats" to school and work can contribute to and increase this common asthma trigger in schoolmates or coworkers.

Dogs can cause allergy symptoms from the substances contained in their dead skin, called dander. The dander is deposited as the dog roams throughout the home. The fur is usually not the allergy-causing component; a shorthaired dog can cause just as many allergy problems as a longhaired dog!

Of course, the best way to live healthier is to move the animal to another home. In many cases, people do not want to give up their pet. There are ways to decrease exposure and live with the animals that have become a part of your family.

Talk with your doctor about these guidelines on limiting your exposure to pet allergens.
  • Make your pet an outside pet (if possible). This will help keep allergens outside.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching a pet.
  • Keep your pet out of your bedroom and off the bed.

If your pet must stay inside, wash bed linens in HOT water (135°F) every two weeks. The temperature can be checked with a meat thermometer. Place it into the stream of water coming out of the washing machine.

  • Keep pets in a room with hard surfaced floors and washable furniture. The kitchen is a great place.
  • Bathe the cat or at least wash the cat with a damp washcloth once a week.
  • Choose a pet without any fur or feathers, such as fish, snake, hermit crabs or electronic pets.
  • Change home air filters once a month. This will help ensure the filter is working effectively.
  • A HEPA room air filter can help remove dander from the air. Consider a room air filter if cats in particular are allowed in the bedroom. An air filter only works on allergen in the air. Remember, when cats lick themselves, the allergen floats into the air.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
  • Do not use down pillows or comforters or other products made with feathers. Take your own pillow when spending the night in another home.
  • Whenever you can, stay away from homes with pets. Ask your doctor about medicine to take if you must visit a home with pets.

Source: Diseasenet, Inc.