We all know that family member who get all stuffy, coughy, itchy, or red swollen eyes around pets. Whether you are that family member or not, there are always ways to help live with pet allergies. Life with cat allergies can raise many questions, such as: Will you regret making your kids happy by gifting them a cat? Will a hypoallergenic cat allow you to live a life without sneezing and sniffling? How can you explain a cat allergy to your child’s endless allergy / cold symptoms?
Continue reading to learn everything there is to know about cat allergies, from what causes your specifically, to treatments, and a worst case scenario, avoidance.
Causes of Cat Allergies
Aafa.org estimates that roughly 10% of Americans have pet allergies, with the majority of those being related to cat allergies. In fact, cat allergies account for twice the number of dog allergies. The cause for this increase from dog allergies is attributed to the fact that it is not just the cats hair or fur that causes the allergy (as is the case with most dog allergies). Instead, people with cat allergies are most commonly allergic to the proteins in the cat’s saliva, urine, and dander (skin).
What makes these proteins so allergenic? Why are humans more susceptible to cat allergies than other household pets? The answer is: The immune system of someone with allergies is hypersensitive to normally harmless things (cat dander or saliva for example) and confuses them for dangerous compounds such as a virus or bacteria. This hypersensitivity to aspects of your pet cat is the cause of the allergy symptoms.
One of our readers also reminded us that pets can also transport other known allergens by being outside, and transporting those allergens to your home. Cats can transport pollen, spores, and even poison ivy on their fur and transfer that to you!
“So can’t I just get a hairless cat?” You might ask. Many people hear that an expensive hypoallergenic cat may be able to solve you or a loved ones cat allergies. Well, as we mentioned above, not everyone is allergic to the cat fur or hair, it can be the cats saliva or urine causing the outbreaks. Therefore, any cat has the potential to cause allergic reactions, and if you are truly looking for a cat, and are considering a hairless cat please consult a doctor first. Test your body to see if it is the cat hair or other aspects of a cat causing your allergies. Without knowing for sure, getting a hypoallergenic cat, regardless of the type, is not a safe plan.
Common symptoms of cat allergies
The most common of pet allergies, specifically cat allergies typically include at least one symptom below
- Shortness of breath
- Red and swollen eyes
- Runny nose
- Itchy nose
These symptoms can take a few minutes up to several hours to take effect. Nearly 25% of people with one or more cat allergy symptom have severe outbreaks after coming in contact with a cat for as short a time as 1 hour.
How to find out if you have a cat allergy
As mentioned before, your pets and cat in particular is capable of gathering allergens on its fur and releasing the pollen and spores in your home. So with this in mind, don’t think that a cat allergy is as obvious as it seems. In most cases it’s a good idea to schedule a doctor appointment to conduct an allergy test to pinpoint the cause of your allergies. Don’t just blame the pet!
Depending on the allergy, your doctor may conduct either a skin or blood test to determine the root cause of your pesky allergy. Don’t be surprised if the doctor can’t be 100% conclusive after the test, as the tests are not perfect. In many instances a doctor will suggest living with a cat or keeping your cat indoors for a month or two to measure the impact on your allergy symptoms.
Fixing your cat allergy problem through treatment
Cat allergies are possible to control with allergy medicine, but seeing as how I’m not a doctor I’ll let you consult yours before taking online advice. If you are interested in potential recommendations check out webmd for suggestions.
If you are looking to solve your cat allergies the best option outside of modern medicine, is to reduce your exposure to cats. In order to do so here are a few tips and tricks which will help manage cat allergies.
- Don’t touch, cuttle, hug, or kiss cats. If this isn’t second nature by now, make it! Even a small amount of brief contact may be enough to trigger allergies.
- Watchout for friends with cats! – Even if your friends and family leave their cats at home, the dander that they can transport on their clothing may be enough to trigger your allergy symptoms.
- Plan accordingly! – If you have to stay in a house with cats, let the owner know of your allergy. Ask them to keep the cat out of the areas you will be using, specifically sleeping in for a few days before your visit. If possible ask them to vacuum or add an air filter.
Don’t ignore the symptoms of a cat allergy, instead visit a doctor and find a way to understand, manage and control your allergic symptoms.