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Living with Pet Allergies

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Animals naturally produce harmless proteins, but people with supersensitive immune systems treat these proteins as foreign invaders and react, thus creating an allergy. For people with pet allergies, contact with household animals can result in symptoms such as a stuffy nose, inflamed or itchy nose and eyes, coughing, difficulty breathing, or a rash. Pet allergies are usually worse for people with asthma and can trigger asthma attacks. Pet allergens are extremely sticky and are found in the pet’s dander, saliva, and urine. Dander is lightweight but sticky dead skin cells that can become airborne within the house and cling to pet hair, clothing, furniture, walls, and woodwork. Pets can also carry outside allergens such as pollen into the home because of the stickiness of the dander.

The best solution to pet allergy avoidance, although unpleasant to most, is to find another home for the pet and thoroughly clean the house and furniture. Complete removal of pet allergens from the home may take several weeks to several months depending upon the original level of allergens, the thoroughness of the cleaning, and the type of furnishings present in the home.

For people who choose not to find another home for the pet, more steps must be taken to provide a comfortable home for the allergic owner. First, the pet should be banned from the bedroom of the allergic person and the door kept closed. Replace the beddings with allergy bed frame covers, sheets, pillow cases, and comforters and wash them routinely. Run an air purifier routinely, but especially at night. Shower immediately before bedtime to remove allergens from the hair and change into clean pajamas. After changing, spend a limited amount of time in the pet zones of the house to avoid bringing allergens into the bedroom on the clothing and hair. This will provide a cleaner sleeping environment with reduced amounts of allergens for a better night sleep.

Second, the pet should also be banned from sitting on the furniture since the pet’s allergens stick to clothing. The pet should be kept out of the home as much as possible and wiped with a wet cloth upon re-entry into the home. The pet should be given a bath at least once a week by a non-allergic family member, treated with dander removal products, and brushed outside.

For allergic owners, wash hands immediately after petting or grooming the pet, and avoid contact with the eyes. Thoroughly wash any skin licked by the pet to avoid a possible rash or skin irritation. Limit the amount of time in close contact with the pet.


If possible, carpet should be removed from the house and replaced with wood floors. If there is a need for carpet, throw rugs are preferable to allow for frequent removal and cleaning. Remove the pet’s favorite furniture and replace upholstered furniture with leather or vinyl so that it can be cleaned by wiping it down. Dispose of any excessive furry pet toys and throw pillows. Wash all curtains and drapes at least once a month or remove from home all together.

When cleaning and vacuuming, the allergic person should wear a mask to reduce allergen intake. It is very important that the vacuum cleaner be fitted with a HEPA filter. Vacuums without this feature need to be replaced! Scrub all floors and walls routinely. Since heating and air conditioning spread airborne allergens, reduce the use of air control and use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter and vent filters. Keep the pet’s cage or litter box away from air ducts to reduce the amount of airborne allergens spread by the home’s air control system.