June is the official National Pet Adoption Month. There are so many animals in local shelters that need a loving home. If you are allergic to pets, but have always wanted to adopt one, let Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care help you find a solution.
A pet allergy, like any other allergy, is an immune system response to a protein it has encountered that the body has interpreted as foreign and overreacts to combat it. In the case of pet allergies, the guilty protein can be found in the animal’s dander, or loose skin flakes that the animal sheds, saliva and/or urine. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health found that detectable levels of pet dander are in every home in the U.S., which means pet allergies are becoming unavoidable, but with some lifestyle changes and the right treatment, relief is possible.
The most common symptoms of pet allergies can mimic symptoms of hay fever or rhinitis, chiefly sneezing, congestion, itchy watery eyes, coughing and wheezing, eczema or rashes. Working with an allergy specialist to determine the origin of your allergies is critical. You may think you are allergic to your newest furry addition when in fact you are reacting to higher concentrations of pollen in the air due to seasonal environmental changes. Simple blood tests and/or skin prick tests can be run by your allergist to quickly identify the culprit and determine the best course of treatment.
“The most common treatment options for pet allergies include: prescription antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, or leukotriene modifiers. In some instances, over-the-counter medications can be enough to manage light symptoms. The best option for treating severe pet allergies remains immunotherapy,” according to Dr. Zevy Landman, allergy and immunology specialist at Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care.
Immunotherapy treatment is a series of allergy shots administered once or twice a week that deliver small doses of the allergen, typically over a three to six month period. The allergen dose is progressively increased over time essentially training your immune system to recognize the allergen as non-threatening, therefore preventing it from overreacting. Your allergy specialist can find the right medication to treat your range and severity of symptoms.
In addition to medical options, a number for lifestyle changes can help you decrease your exposure to animal dander and find relief at home with your pet:
· Keep your air clean by using a HEPA filtered air purifier system, changing filters seasonally.
· Vacuum frequently using a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner, which permanently traps airborne allergens.
· Clean your home weekly and thoroughly, including furniture and curtains. Use hypo-allergenic mattress covers and wash all bedding weekly.
· Use a nasal lavage daily to wash away allergens that may have collected in the nasal cavity.
· Bathe your pets weekly using a dander-reducing shampoo, which can reduce the level of allergens by as much as 84%. *Be sure to check with your veterinarian as shampooing too frequently in certain pets can create an increase in dryness, causing the animal to shed higher quantities of dander.
· Keep coats trimmed short to reduce the quantity of allergens collected.
· Keep pets off furniture or use furniture covers which can be washed weekly.
· Do not place litter boxes in areas with air filtration intake vents.
· Keep pets out of the bedroom.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as hypoallergenic dogs and cats; however there are some breeds that statistically produce significantly less amounts of the offending protein, inducing far fewer symptoms and making them appear to be hypoallergenic. Some of these dog breeds include: the Poodle (and all varieties of cross breeds), Terriers (including Yorkshire), Soft-Wheaten, Kerry Blue, Bedlington and Schnauzers, the Irish Water Spaniel, the Portuguese Water Dog, the Maltese, Bichon Frise, Shih Tzu and Chinese Crested. Among cats, the allergy inducing protein occurs in greater quantity. Luckily there are some low-level breeds including the Balinese, the Oriental Shorthair, the Javanese, the Devon Rex and Cornish Rex, and the hairless Sphynx and Siberian. In addition, there are several factors that affect a cat’s allergen production: males produce more allergenic secretions than females, intact males produce more than neutered males and dark cats tend to produce more than light-colored cats, though the reason is unknown.
An allergy specialist can use their training and expertise to accurately diagnose your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment to help you or a loved one manage their symptoms so you can adopt a pet.
About Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care
Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care has been in business for more than 38 years and has board certified physicians with extensive experience in treating both adults and children. FCAAC has 18 centers throughout South Florida, serving communities in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. The Centers specialize in the testing and treatment of adults and children who suffer from allergies, asthma and other disorders of the immune system. Among the most common allergies treated are allergic skin diseases, food, drug and pet allergies. Florida Center For Allergy & Asthma Care Research conducts clinical trials on new medications. The goal of the FCAAC team is to provide professional and quality care resulting in total patient satisfaction.
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