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You’re Allergic to Your Pet

Those are dreaded words from your Allergist.  At one level you kind of ‘just knew it’ but emotionally no one is ever ready to hear those words.  How can this be?  Let’s back up and look at how pet allergy presents itself.

dog and sleeping cat cuddled together

ACUTE ALLERGIC ASTHMA OR RHINITIS

An example of acute allergic asthma or rhinitis is when you visit a home with a cat and in five minutes you start to cough, get tight in the chest while sneezing and having to blow your nose.  Your eyes probably itch, too.  The longer you stay the worse it gets.  Then when you visit the home the next week the same thing happens again. 

CHRONIC ALLERGIC ASTHMA OR RHINITIS

Chronic allergic asthma or rhinitis is more difficult to diagnose. Testing is often helpful in identifying the correct cause.  Symptoms are present daily and eventually they become the normal that you get used to—having to use nose spray and a daily prevention controller just to feel good.  Getting sick, being exposed to more allergens, or maybe even exercising sets off symptoms. 

Diagnosing pet allergy needs clinical symptom assessment and confirmatory testing.  Guessing can be wrong because dust mite allergy and allergy to many molds can present the same as pet allergy.

HOW CAN YOU GET BETTER? 

The most effective way to get better is to avoid the type of pet that sets off your allergies.  That sounds easy, but we all know that friends, family, the park and more can all get in the way. 

If you have a pet that sets off your allergies, it is imperative that you remove the pet from your home if you want to feel better.  A big clean up after the pet has moved out is essential.  The level of dander will become much lower after six months. Then the clinical symptom improvement takes a few months after the exposure level is low.  The benefits of taking this route include the marked improvement in allergy and asthma symptoms plus a reduction in medication needs and costs.


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WHAT IF YOUR PET MOVING OUT ISN’T AN OPTION?

Obviously, continued suffering is one option for you if your pet moving out of your home isn’t an option, but clearly not one anyone wants.  Here are some better options that you can try:

  • Partial avoidance of the pet allergen
  • Pet being required to stay out of the bedroom 
  • Reducing carpet and other allergen reservoirs 
  • Using special filters
  • Medications including topical steroids, bronchodilators, and antihistamines 
  • Allergy shots to become less allergic  
  • Rare patients use the biologic product that is anti-IgE called Xolair

 

Patients need to know what to do for flare-ups.  Working together with a Board-Certified Allergist is essential for successful treatment.  Your Allergist will have to know what is important to you and you will need to know the realities of the various treatments.  In the end, the goal is for you to feel better and be happy!

Article originally published January 8, 2018. 

Topics: allergies, Living With Allergies, pet allergies

Mark Bubak, M.D.

About the Author: Mark Bubak, M.D.

Dr. Bubak is certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology to care for adults and children with asthma and allergies. He has been active in allergy research and education with special emphasis on new allergy testing and treatment methods. A South Dakota native, his medical degree is from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine, with Allergy and Internal Medicine fellowships at the Mayo Clinic.