07 Jul Pet Allergy
There are no ‘low allergy breeds’ of dogs or cats as the protein in the dog’s saliva and a protein in a cat’s sweat glands, and not the fur, that allergy sufferers react to.
I could not imagine my childhood without a dog (I grew up with Boxers) so I was interested to read about a Melbourne study of 5,000 infants that concluded that having older siblings and a pet dog that lives inside the home could reduce the likelihood of infants developing egg allergies (Koplin et al, 2012). This is in line with earlier studies demonstrating that exposure to pets within the first 12 months of life can reduce the incidence of allergies later in life (Ownby et al, 2002). This supports the Hygiene Hypothesis which states that a lack of early childhood exposure to microbes, parasites and infectious agents, increase’s their susceptibility to automimmune disorders and allergic diseases. Once allergic however, exposure to known allergens such as dust, house dust mite, pet dander and pollens becomes a problem in susceptible individuals.
Most people with pet allergies are not born with this allergy as it takes around two years to develop. Pets that commonly cause allergies are horses, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats and mice. The severity of the symptoms will depend on your sensitivity and may range from sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, itchy and watery eyes, asthma, cough, eczema and hives to an anaphylactic reaction requiring immediate hospital attention. Even after removing a pet from the home, the dander can remain on dust, carpets and furnishings and may take several months of good housekeeping to remove.
Almost 10% of the population are allergic to animals.
Testing the home for pet allergens is a waste of time and money if you know the previous owners had a pet (the allergen will most likely be present). If however you are highly allergic to a cat or dog, and don’t know the history of the home, I highly recommend you ask the neighbours or, failing that, employ a building biologist to test the home.
- Choose a low allergy pet – turtle, hermit crab, fish or reptile!
- Do not allow pets inside the home
- Use a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter and motorised head
- Wash your hands every time you touch your pet
- If you allow your pet indoors, keep them away from carpeted rooms
- Ensure your pet sleeps on its own mat (not your bed)
- Brush your pet at least weekly (outside) to remove excess hair and dander
- As a last resort, you may need to consider getting an air filter fitted with a HEPA, UV and carbon filter