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  • Writer's pictureWellness Ctr of Franklin

Get Rid of Your Allergies...NOT Your Pet

We love our pets!

In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that we own 95.6 million cats89.7 million dogs12 million hamsters, guinea pigs and other assorted rodents9 million birdsand 7 million pet rabbits

So, it can be a really tough situation when you or your child is allergic to the family pet. But let’s face it, for a lot of families, that dilemma is a reality.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, up to 30% of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. Further studies have shown that approximately 4.9 million Americans suffer from pet allergies.

What’s their doctor’s advice when these allergy suffers ask for help? Many tell their patients to get rid of the pet … but, only about one in five actually do. Apparently, for most, the emotional benefits of keeping a beloved pet outweigh the physical discomfort for most allergy sufferers.

So what should you do? I say...get rid of the allergies, not the pet.

First, so that you’ll understand a little more, let me explain what causes us to have allergic reactions to our pets? Cats and dogs have glands in their skin which secrete proteins that some people will experience as allergens, triggering an allergic response. As your pet moves around your home, these proteins are released into the air, finally landing on carpet or upholstered furniture. These protein allergens are also excreted in a pet’s urine and saliva. So, you see, it may not be the fur itself that causes the hives, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes ... it may be the dried saliva from the pet simply licking it’s coat.

So your next question might be … are there hypoallergenic dogs and cats?Contrary to what you may have heard, "hypoallergenic" dogs and cats do not exist. Sure, there are some breeds of dogs that actually have hair instead of fur (such as the poodle and bichon frise) and it’s been suggested that because their hair sheds less than fur, perhaps less allergens are spread into the environment … and therefore cause less allergic reactions. But, the truth is that many people report just as strong a reaction to these dogs. It’s more likely that these dogs, when their owners report less allergic reactions, are just bathed more frequently. Also, a small dog may provoke less allergic reaction than a larger one simply because he/she has less skin and hair to shed.

There is also the question of what your pet eats affecting his/her body chemistry and thus affecting the proteins given off as possible allergens, not to mention the owner handling the pet’s food that may be full of chemicals and dyes that create allergic reactions… (but we’ll leave that for another time).

Some people even report developing immunity to their dog. Others say they outgrew the allergy. But don't depend on these statements if you’re getting a new dog. It’s just as possible that an allergic reaction will worsen with greater exposure.

How to live with your allergies

Now for the good news ... pets and people with allergies can manage to live together successfully. Follow these simple strategies and you may be able to ease allergic symptoms.

Wash your hands...and no kissing (the dog that is). Remember, it’s not the fur that causes that stuffy nose and red eyes, it’s the allergens in dander, saliva and urine and you pick those up on your hands ... with petting. Also, your pet’s coat picks up pollen, mold and grass allergens when he’s outside and transfers those to you too. A thorough hand washing after petting your animal helps remove all those allergens before they cause you to react.

Wash your furniture...well, not the furniture itself, just the washable covers you’ve place on them. Vacuum using a micro filter bag to keep dust and dander allergens to a minimum. Wipe smooth surfaces in the home regularly. Hardwood floors instead of carpet are highly recommended as they retain fewer allergens and are easier to clean than carpet. Install HEPA filters throughout your home and keep dust-catching curtains and rugs to a minumum.

Wash your pet. A good brushing followed by a weekly bath helps keep dander levels low and can reduce allergens in his fur by as much as 84%. Use a gentle shampoo made for pets. Between baths, give your pet’s coat a gentle rub with hypoallergenic baby wipes to remove dander and pollen. Don’t forget to wash his bedding too.

Get your pet a T-shirt. No, I’m not kidding. Not only will a clean T-shirt reduce the spread of dander as well as limit the amount of allergens your pet picks up on his coat when he’s outdoors, it allows you to pet him while limiting your contact with his dander-carrying fur. (Still a good idea to wash your hands after contact though.)

Finally, and for some, the hardest rule.

Ban your pet from the bedroom. I know that not everyone is willing to stick to this rule so, when it’s not possible - or if you just don’t want to do it - place a washable throw on the floor for your pet’s bed. Remember to use impermeable covers for the allergic family member’s mattress and pillows, especially if the pet is sleeping in their room...and they’ll just have to get used to living with a stuffy nose.

Don’t let allergies break up a beautiful relationship

Now your family is ready to join the huge number of animal lovers who manage their allergies and live happily and healthily with their beloved pets.

Try these simple lifestyle changes and let me know how they work for you...

For those with stubborn allergy symptoms, there are noninvasive FDA-approved allergy treatments that don’t involve painful shots or medications. One of these is the NRG LASER treatment that we have available at the Wellness Center of Franklin. We have been using this technology since 2006 with great success. Clients see results in as little as 2-5 treatments.

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