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PETS | Mary Jo Nagy Allergies don't have to mean the end of animal ownership



Published: Sun, May 5, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Have you been told that you have developed an allergy to your cat, dog or other furry pet? Has your doctor advised you to get rid of your pet to reduce symptoms? Has the doctor given you any alternatives?

There are many people with allergies that are diehard animal lovers and will not give up their pets at any cost.

According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 81 percent of all allergy specialists who have pets now encourage their patients with allergies to find ways to coexist with their pets.

Doctors need to realize that the family member with an allergy is the one blamed for having to give up the beloved pet. It is not healthy to make anyone carry that kind of guilt. Does this mean that you need to throw "Rover" or "Sassy" outside?

Absolutely not.

So what is the solution?

There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed unless you have a reptile or a fish. The good news is there are many things you can do to stay sneeze-free around your furry friends.

Controlling the situation

With effort on your part you can get your allergies under control and keep your pet. Allergy-causing substances (allergens) can be found in animals' hair, dander (dried skin particles), urine, feces and saliva. Allergens can be carried on clothes, carpets and furniture. Symptoms may include itching, rashes, a runny nose, coughing, watery eyes, difficulty breathing and headaches.

What can you do?

UFirst, make sure that you are really allergic to your animal and not to something else. Go to a specialist and have allergy testing done. Make sure you are actually allergic to animals.

UKeep a clean house. People are rarely allergic to just animals. By decreasing other things like dust, pollen, or mold you'll reduce your overall symptoms.

UCarpets, drapes, furniture and mattresses catch dust and dander. Put vinyl covers on mattresses and box springs. Change your pillowcases frequently. Wash blankets, curtains and throw-pillows regularly.

UCarpets hold 100 times more allergens than nonporous flooring. If you can, replace carpets with tile, wood, or linoleum. Vacuum daily using a special filter replacement bag that helps trap particles.

UKeep pets off furniture and out of the bedroom. Keep your bedroom doors closed from pets.

UAfter petting your animal, wash your hands before touching you face or eyes. Shower and wash your hair before going to bed to reduce allergens on your pillow.

UHave nonallergic people bathe and brush your pet and clean the liter box. Always groom your pet outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Try products such as, Allerpet, which help to reduce allergic reaction.

UNever use dusty or deodorizing cat litter.

UKeep ductwork cleaned and sanitized every year. Look for a HEPA filter room-air cleaner, which removes about 100% of small allergenic particles.

UMedications may help control allergy symptoms. There are many new prescription drugs that reduce allergy symptoms. You may also try over-the-counter nasal sprays, antihistamines, decongestants and inhalers. Always consult your doctor before using any medications.

Rewards of pet ownership

Remember that having a pet brings many health rewards. People with pets are reported to live happier lives. And you too can live happily with "Rover" or "Sassy" with a little effort on your part. However, if you know that you cannot tolerate an animal in your home, do not bring one there just to put it outside or 'get rid of it' if your allergy worsens. You will suffer and so will that animal when it has nowhere to live. Try a tank of fish instead.

XNagy is a volunteer with Angels for Animals.




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