This is the season of spring allergies and according to the Humane Society, 15% of us are allergic to cats or dogs. And regardless, one-third of Americans who are allergic to cats live with at least one in their household. In 1997, Canadian psychologist, Dr Stanley Coren, investigated 341 allergy sufferers who were advised to give up their pets by their physicians in order to stop allergy symptoms. Only one out of every five followed the doctor’s orders! Clearly, the study has spoken—the benefits of owning a pet far outweigh the disadvantages of pet allergies for many owners. However, living comfortably with a pet when you have allergies takes much discipline and compliance to some key rules, as well as a keen understanding of the allergic condition.
The source of these irritating and sometimes life-threatening symptoms begins at your animal’s skin. Glands in your pet’s hide emit miniscule allergy-triggering proteins, called allergens. These allergens float through the air and settle on furniture, rugs, clothing, etc and linger on your animal’s fur.
As long as you or your family member’s allergies are merely miserable, but not so severe to be considered life threatening, consider some of these simple remedies to help reduce the amount of allergens in your home:
- Have an “Animal Free” zone. The bedroom would be a good choice since an estimated one-third to half of people’s time is spent in there. By keeping pets out of your sleeping area, you can greatly reduce the symptoms of pet allergies.
- “A HEPA air filter in your bedroom can be quite useful,” states Dr. Nathanael Horne, President of the Allergy and Asthma Medical P.C and Assistant Attending at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan. HEPA is not a brand of air purifiers, but stands for High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor, a specific type of air filter that removes the smallest microns and allergens in the air.
- Use an allergen reducing spray, such as Allerpet, on your sneeze-inducing animal’s fur to help reduce the production of these proteins.
- Anti-histamines are synthetic, man-made drugs, which reduce irritation in the eyes and nose, congestion and breathlessness of the lungs. Not to mention, redness or itching and swelling of the skin. Dr. Horne recommends (in order from least to most sedating) Loratadine (Claritin) and Cetirizine (Zyrtec). “Unfortunately,” says Dr. Horne, “the more sedating ones are generally the most effective.”
- Immunotherapy is one of the most commonly talked about methods for living with pet allergies. It is an injection process, which increasingly exposes the patient to controlled amounts of the substance they are allergic to, such as pollen or dust mites. The aim is to ultimately build a tolerance to the substance and therefore reduce the symptoms. A common misconception is that immunotherapy cures allergies. It simply reduces the severity of your symptoms, but is a more permanent solution than anti-histamines. According to Dr. Horne, “Roughly two-thirds of patients benefit from immunotherapy and usually see an improvement within six months to a year.” However, for long-term benefits, the process usually needs three to five years.
- “There are many prescription medications that can treat the various symptoms, and can be quite effective,” says Dr.Horne. For eye symptoms, antihistamine eye drops can be used. For the nose, nasal steroids or antihistamine nasal sprays are recommended. And for allergic asthma, bronchodilators, or anti inflammatory inhaler.
- There are several natural antihistamines that can be found at your local health food stores: -Nettle leaf, a western herb that is a natural antihistamine and is known to also detoxify the liver.
- Quercetin is an anti-oxidant found in the peels of red onions and apples. In addition to being a natural antihistamine, it is anti-inflammatory and may help tackle prostate cancer, and reduce depression. Also, many forms of Quercetin supplements are formulated with Bromelain (a digestive enzyme from pineapples), which relieves sinus inflammation. Dr. Horne recommends 500mg, two times a day and avoid in pregnancy.
- Nettle leaf, a western herb that is a natural antihistamine and known to also detoxify the liver.
- Lastly, you can help relieve allergies by increasing foods that are high in anti-oxidants to your diet. This includes fruits and vegetables including green leafy vegetables, broccoli, turnips, carrots, pineapple, papaya, and beverages such as decaffeinated green tea, oolong tea. These help reduce excessive mucus, a condition that is credited as “dampness” in Chinese medicine.
- Both blood root and cevadilla seed can be helpful in treating allergy symptoms such as: sneezing, coughing, runny nose, facial pain, dry throat, red eyes, sinus pressure and sore throat.
- Eyebright. This homeopathic remedy is best used for the symptoms of a watery nasal discharge and watering eyes. Patients who experience their most acute symptoms while lying down, in the morning, or while they are outside will benefit the most by this remedy.
There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat. There are, however, hypoallergenic pets, such as the Poodle, Bichon Frise, and Schnauzer – hypo meaning a decreased tendency to cause allergies. (See below for the entire list) “There has been a lot of interest in selective breeding or doing genetic engineering to produce cats and dogs that are hypo-allergenic,” says Dr. Horne, “For an individual allergy sufferer, the most practical approach to determine one’s level of sensitivity is to spend time with the breed that they are considering taking on as a pet.”
It may seem like a lot of work – cleaning, shots, pills, nasal sprays, eye drops, etc, but nobody can deny the outcome a loving pet has on its owners overall health and well-being. And the rewards of having a loving pet certainly prevail over the hassle of a daily cleaning regime!
Hypoallergenic Breeds: (Please note that everyone’s allergies are different. A breed that may work for one person, may cause symptoms in another!)
* American Hairless Terrier
* Airedale Terrier
* Bedlington Terrier
* Bichon Frisé
* Border Terrier
* Cairn Terrier
* Chacy Ranior
* Chinese Crested (hairless)
* Chinese Crested (powder puff)
* Coton De Tulear
* Doodleman Pinscher
* Giant Schnauzer
* Hairless Khala
* Irish Water Spaniel
* Kerry Blue Terrier
* Lagotto Romagnolo
* Miniature Schnauzer
* Native American Indian Dog
* Peruvian Inca Orchid
* Portuguese Water Dog
* Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
* Spanish Water Dog
* Standard Poodle
* Standard Schnauzer
* Tibetan Terrier
* Toy Poodle
* West Highland White Terrier
* Wirehaired Fox Terrier
* Yorkshire Terrier