Statistics say that nearly 1/3 of Americans with allergies are allergic to cats and dogs. Common cat allergies affect twice as many people as dog allergies. Surprisingly, it is not the fur or hair that is the problem.
Cat allergies are caused by proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander (dried flakes of skin.) If you begin having what seems to be a never-ending cold, sniffling and sneezing, it is best to go to an allergist to confirm whether it is your pet or something else that is causing the problem.
How Do You Know If Your Cat Is The Problem?
You could be allergic to other things, such as dust motes or pollen. However, if you do have allergies, your cat can trigger symptoms to them.
You may need to talk to your doctor to get a treatment plan that will make your symptoms less disruptive and uncomfortable. Even if it is not your cat, the doctor may suggest that you live without the cat for a few months to make sure the cat is not to blame.
One way to treat allergies is with a shot, though they are not always effective. Also, completing the treatment can take years, and these shots are not used for children under age five.
Some studies have show that infants exposed to animals at a very young age might be destined to develop allergies. However, a 2011 study found that babies who have lived with cats, especially during the first year of life, develop antibodies to the pet and were less likely to acquire an allergy later.
A 2017 study also found that cats and dogs may both provide a benefit for babies. The study concluded that babies exposed to a cat or dog at home during pregnancy may have fewer future allergy problems than the babies who were not exposed.
If the child is allergic, remove fabric toys and stuffed animals. Replace these with plastic or washable ones to help relieve symptoms.
How Are Cat Allergies Diagnosed?
Cat allergies are diagnosed in two ways, either by skin testing or by blood tests. There are two types of skin allergy tests.
One method is a skin prick test. In your doctor’s office, he will prick your skin’s surface and deposit a tiny amount of the allergen. This test is usually done on the forearm or back. You may be tested with several allergens at the same time. There will be one skin prick done with a controlled solution with no allergens.
It will take 15 to 20 minutes for the allergens to cause a reaction. The skin prick site may become red or swollen. Having this reaction confirms an allergy. A positive cat allergy usually causes a red, itchy bump at the spot where the allergen was deposited. These unpleasant effects generally dissipate 30 minutes after testing.
The other skin test is an intradermal skin test. Allergens are injected under the skin on the forearm or arm. With a positive reaction, red itchy bumps will appear.
The intradermal test is considered more sensitive than the skin prick test. It can be better at showing a positive result when an allergy exists. However, it can also have more false positives, meaning it has created a reaction when there is no allergy. Your doctor will determine the best test for you.
Some people can’t have skin tests done, either because of their age or an existing skin condition. Young children often have a more difficult time with skin testing, so the doctor will order a blood test.
Blood is drawn either in the doctor’s office or in a lab, and sent for testing. The blood is examined for antibodies to common allergens, including cat dander. Though the results take longer, there is no risk of an allergic reaction during the blood tests.
Of course, it is best to avoid the things you are allergic to, but if you can’t, here are some treatments that might help.
- Antihistamines (Benedryl is a good choice)
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays (Examples: Flonase or Nasonex)
- Decongestant spray
- Cromolyn sodium (Prevents release of innumen system chemicals; may reduce symptoms)
- Leukotrilene inhibitors
- Allergy shots, or immunotherapy
Use a salt water (saline) solution to rinse nasal passages. This will reduce congestion, postnasal drip, and sneezing. You can buy over-the-counter preparations or make salt water at home. Combine 1/8 teaspoon table salt with eight ounces of distilled water.
Acupuncture and probiotics may ease symptoms of seasonal allergies. They may not be effective, however, for pet allergies.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are one of the best defenses against cat allergies. By forcing air through a special filter that traps dander as well as pollen, mites, or other allergens, airborne pet allergies may be reduced.
How to Reduce Your Symptoms
It is best to avoid your cat if you are allergic. Here are some options for reducing your symptoms: (list comes from www.healthline.com/health/allergies/cat
- Don’t let the cat in your bedroom
- Wash your hands after you touch the cat
- Remove wall-to-wall carpeting and upholstered furniture. Wood or tiled flooring and clean walls will help reduce the allergens.
- Throw rugs or furniture should be washable in hot water. Wash them frequently.
- Use a dense filtering material such as cheesecloth to cover heating and air-conditioning vents.
- Install an air cleaner
- Change filters on air-conditioning units and furnaces often.
- Keep the humidity level in your home at around 40%
- Vacuum weekly using a HEPA filter vacuum
- While dusting or cleaning, use a face mask.
- Find a nonallergic person who can regularly dust your home and clean the litter box.
Talk to your doctor if you have a severe cat allergy. Perhaps he can offer immunotherapy for a long-term treatment solution.