Allergies to pets with fur or feathers are common, especially among people who have other allergies or asthma. Between 15 and 30% of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats or dogs.
Allergies to cats are about two times more common than allergies to dogs.
Why are people allergic to pets?
The immune system is responsible for finding foreign substances in the body, such as viruses and bacteria, and eliminate them. Usually, this response protects us from disease. People with a pet allergy have a hypersensitive immune system that reacts to the innocuous proteins of saliva, urine or dander of domestic animals (the dead skin that comes off the animal). These proteins are called allergens.
What causes allergy to cats?
People who are allergic to cats are affected by feld 1 protein, which is produced in the skin of cats and secreted in the hair. These allergens accumulate on the fur and on other surfaces.
Contrary to what is commonly thought, the hair of domestic animals is not what causes the allergy. However, it can accumulate dandruff and also houses other allergens such as dust and pollen.
The fel d 1 is present in the saliva, skin and sebaceous glands of felines. It is also found in a wide variety of internal tissues including brain, muscle and visceral organs. Recent studies have shown that the primary source of this allergen is the skin.
Concentrations of fel d 1 on the skin are under hormonal control, therefore, castration strongly influences l concentrations of fel d 1 of male cats decrease one month after castration. There is also preliminary evidence that secretions may be greater in males than in females.
What are the symptoms of an allergic person?
Clinical manifestations vary from local skin reactions to typical rhinoconjunctivitis, to severe asthma. Cutaneous reactions range from contact urticaria to an intensely itchy papular macular rash on the face, neck, and trunk. These reactions are usually associated with respiratory symptoms during airborne exposure.
How do I know if I’m allergic to cats?
The allergy must always be diagnosed by an allergist. The general practitioner should refer us to the specialist, the mere presence of a pet at home does not mean that it is the animal that causes the symptoms. Many animals are abandoned without the certainty of an assertive diagnosis, that is, specific tests that determine what we are allergic and not.
To find out what we are allergic to, the specialist can perform skin tests, consisting of a series of twenty small cuts in the arm by testing different types of allergens and checking if they produce a reaction on the skin. Another way to perform these tests is through blood tests, which will test up to 500 allergen components. In the case of food allergy, products that are suspected to look for symptoms should be avoided. To these tests can be added a spirometry consisting of a test that measures lung capacity and is a useful tool in the diagnosis of cases of allergic asthma. Once the agent responsible for the allergy has been identified, treatment begins.
I have been diagnosed with allergy and now what?
One of the first recommendations for the management of allergy to cats is the elimination of the animal. From the perspective of the allergist, this is usually the most practical recommendation. However before making such a drastic decision you can try some management measures associated with the treatment established by the specialist, and of course be sure that it is the cat that causes the allergy. On almost all occasions the question of eliminating or not the feline pet is emotional. The final decision will normally depend on the person suffering from the symptoms, except in the case of children
If you suffer allergy and do not want to get rid of your cat you can follow the following recommendations:
- Prevent the cat from entering the bedroom: you spend there between 30% and 50% of your life. Keep the bedroom door closed and wipe it carefully.
- Avoid carpeting, since the allergen can accumulate in them, also avoid recharging the rooms decorating elements in which they could accumulate equally. If you want to have a rug, choose one with short hair and steam it frequently. The best option is to use movable rugs that can be washed with hot water.
- Use dust mask to vacuum: vacuum cleaners remove allergens from carpet and exacerbate allergy. Use vacuum cleaners with HEPA filter (high efficiency against airborne particles) if possible.
- Forced-air heating and air conditioning can spread allergens around the house: cover the bedroom’s ventilation grilles with a thick filter of a material such as cheesecloth.
- Adding a HEPA filter air purifier to central heating and air conditioning can decrease the concentration of allergens in the air. The air purifier should be used for at least four hours a day. There are other types of air purifiers that have a aerostatic filter that removes from the air particles the size of the animal’s allergens. However, no purifier or filter will remove allergens from the surface.
- Bathe the cat every week: this can reduce airborne allergens although its effectiveness in reducing symptoms in a person is debatable.
- Have someone who does not suffer from allergy brush the animal outside the house to remove the dandruff, and then also clean the box of debris or the cage.
- Take it to the hairdresser: if your cat is long or semi-long hair can take it periodically to the hairdresser, the haircut will cause the allergen to accumulate in less quantity in the coat.
- There is a product called Vetriderm topical solution from Bayer Laboratories (formerly known as Allepet). It is a spray that is applied on domestic animals to remove the remains of dirt from the surface, especially those that can cause allergies (epithelia, saliva remains, etc.), thus reducing allergic reactions. A weekly application of the product reduces the symptomatology in many cases.
- There are effective vaccines in some cases for the treatment of allergy to pets, consult your doctor about this possibility.
- Sterilize the cat: this can help reduce the production of the allergen, especially in males, in addition to giving your animal a number of health benefits.
With these management measures and always following the recommendations of your doctor is Possible that you can continue to live with your cat without major repercussions for your health. In some cases unfortunately this is not possible, and your health can become strongly resentful. At this point and having tried all possible solutions, you can always choose to find a new home for your feline companion.