Well, firstly the bad news. If you are allergic to pets, then the most effective way to prevent your symptoms (which may include wheezing, hay fever or skin irritations) is to stay away from them. Which is sad really as household pets make excellent companions and make us feel happier – in fact, these studies showed that pet owners fare better in a range of wellbeing measures, both psychological and physical.
The good news is that exposure from birth to cats or dogs either decreased or had no effect on the risk of allergic disease up to the age of 12. Further, exposure to animals can induce a form of immunologic tolerance without causing allergic disease. The researchers of that study say that avoidance measures related to animals need only be recommended for sensitised individuals with positive skin test results. Many allergic or symptomatic children who live with an animal do not have positive skin test results or positive IgE antibodies to that type of animal.
How to reduce pet allergens in your home
If you’re one of those people who are sensitive to pet allergens, then you’ll find these tips useful. And before you think you’re immune to pet allergies as you don't have a pet, think about this interesting statistic - 80% of Swedish children with cat allergies had never lived with a cat. You're either sensitive or you're not and avoidance doesn't seem to make a difference.
Firstly, you need to know that dogs and cats shed allergens in their sweat and saliva. The allergens become airborne when the animal sheds their hair. These allergens can be tricky to remove from your home.
- Keep pets outside if you can. Your home will still have a higher concentration of animal allergens than if you had no pets but the situation is a step in the right direction.
- If you do allow your pets indoors, do keep them away from your own sleeping areas.
- Keep your pets’ bedding clean and dry. Have a non-allergic family member take responsibility for cleaning of the pet bedding.
- Groom your pets every week. Use a good, pH-balanced wash and work it in well to help remove any loose hair and dander.
- Invest in a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter. According to consumer group Choice, these filters trap the dirt you can't see (such as droppings from dust mites, pollen, mould, pet dander and tobacco particles), rather than sending allergens back into the air.
- Delegate the vacumming to an allergy-free person but if you can’t, then wear a mask, open windows and leave the room for at least 20 minutes afterwards.
- Open windows and keep up good circulation of the air within your home.
What about pets and mould?
Check out the Moldblogger post here for some excellent advice on all types of pets and how to live with them without increasing your chances of mould growth.