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How to live with pet allergies without getting rid of your pet?

 by lucy on 13 May 2017 |
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We all love our pets, but millions of owners suffer from allergies caused by their companions. While pet allergies are best treated through avoidance, modern medicine, plus a little hard work, can make living a comfortable life with your pet possible if you have mild to moderate symptoms.
 
Most people blame dog or cat hair for their allergies, but animal hair is not an allergen on its own. Rather, the proteins found in pets’ dander, saliva or urine trigger allergic reactions when people come into contact with them. To make matters worse, pets’ coats can collect pollen, mold and other allergens that affect millions of people. Symptoms often include a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing and constricted breathing, but these can be signs of an allergic reaction to something other than to your pet. The first step towards treating a pet allergy, then, is establishing that you are, in fact, allergic to your pet. This can be done through allergy testing, during which a professional allergist injects a small amount of test allergens into your skin to identify the specific substances triggering symptoms. If Fluffy or Fido is the source of your allergy, there are several ways to manage symptoms without saying “goodbye" to your companion:
 
1. Re-organize your home to include designated “pet-free” zones where allergen levels are reduced. Keeping your pet away from your bedroom, home office and other spaces where you spend a lot of time can greatly reduce symptoms, as can teaching him to stay off the furniture.
 
2. Invest in hypoallergenic bedding and an air purifier that reduces airborne allergens.
 
3. Bathe your pet about twice a week help reduce dust, pollen and other allergens caught in your his coat.
 
4. Clean your home regularly: Change air filters, vacuum and wash bedding—including your pet’s bedding—more often.
 
5. Given the option, choose hardwood or tile floors over allergen-catching carpets. Choose furniture that is less prone to collecting allergens.
 
After making changes to the environment around you, you can turn to modern medicine for more help managing pet allergies. Over-the-counter medications such as Claritin, Benadryl or Zyrtec can relieve mild allergies symptoms such as itchy eyes or congestion, and prescription medicine can also help. Unfortunately, these medications won’t alleviate asthma-related symptoms: Only environmental factors can help. Some animal lovers also take allergy shots, known as immunotherapy, to get long-term relief from their symptoms. This involves injecting a very small dose of a known allergen into the body, gradually increasing a person’s tolerance to that allergen. Immunotherapy has been shown to provide effective and long-lasting relief from allergy symptoms in some cases, but requires patience: It may take almost a year of weekly injections before you can switch to a monthly maintenance dose, and several years after that before you can stop the shots altogether.
 
Living with an animal when you have pet allergies requires extra work, but it’s often possible to maintain a comfortable life without giving up your pet’s company.

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Yael David Lavi
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