WHAT ARE ANIMAL ALLERGENS?
Cats, dogs and other mammals produce proteins in their skin that can become airborne and cause allergic symptoms. Because of their very small size (much smaller than pollen grains or dust mite particles) these particles remain suspended in the air for long periods of time. It is not the hair of the animal, but rather the dander produced by the skin, that causes the allergic reaction. Even a non-shedding pet produces dander, so the sad truth is that there is no such thing as a non-allergenic breed of cat or dog. However, it is true that some individual cats or dogs produce more allergenic dander than other individual cats or dogs.
WHERE ARE ANIMAL ALLERGENS FOUND?
Animal allergen levels are highest in homes where pets are present. What is surprising, however, is that these allergens are also found (in lesser amounts) in places–such as schools and workplaces–where pets have never been present, having been brought there on the clothing of pet owners. Dander allergens are sticky, and dander in soft materials, such as carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture and clothing, can persist for long periods of time. Unless special steps are taken, pet dander can remain in a home for up to six months after the pet has been removed.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO DECREASE EXPOSURE TO ANIMAL DANDER ALLERGENS?
The medically best solution is the most emotionally difficult: finding a new home for the pet. Although this is a decision that only you and your family can make, the fact is that there is no other action that will as dramatically, effectively and safely eliminate the symptoms of pet allergy. If you are able to remove the pet, the steps noted below will hasten the clearing of residual pet allergen.
If you can not or will not remove the pet, the following steps will decrease the level of exposure somewhat. Whether or not they will be sufficient to relieve symptoms will depend on the severity of the allergy.
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