Treatment Options for Pet Allergies
Have you ever popped over to a friend’s place for the first time and fallen in love with their pets? You’ll probably end up cozying up with them on the floor in one big happy cuddle puddle.
However, seconds later, you feel the onset of a runny nose, itchy eyes and skin, or you might even start sneezing. Yikes! What gives?
Newsflash! You might have a pet allergy. You aren’t alone. An estimated 10% to 20% of Americans are allergic to pets to different degrees.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms of a pet allergy, the causes, how you can avoid an allergic reaction, and what medications you can take.
Causes of an Allergic Reaction to Pets
Most people with pet allergies are allergic to proteins in their pet's saliva or dander (dead skin cells) that become airborne particles. The most common type of pet allergy is caused by proteins found in cat and dog fur.
Other animals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs, also produce similar proteins, which can cause an allergic reaction.
Symptoms of a Pet Allergy
Pet allergies are real and can cause a range of symptoms. Let’s take a closer look at these symptoms, so you can start feeling better.
Common symptoms include:
- Itchy eyes.
- Runny nose.
- Itchy skin.
- Rashes or hives.
- Dizziness and nausea.
If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, your condition may worsen when exposed to pet allergens. You may also experience wheezing or shortness of breath.
For some individuals, contact with a pet can cause anaphylaxis—a severe allergic reaction that requires immediate medical treatment. Anaphylaxis is characterized by difficulty breathing and swelling around the mouth and throat that can lead to shock if left untreated.
Avoiding Allergic Reactions to Pets
If you suspect you may have a pet allergy, see an allergist for testing so that you can confirm your diagnosis and determine the best treatment plan for your specific case. Depending on the severity of your allergy, it might be necessary for you to avoid contact with animals entirely to reduce symptoms.
However, if avoidance is not possible—for instance if it’s one of your pets—there are steps you can take to reduce exposure at home, such as keeping pets out of certain rooms, like bedrooms and bathrooms, where allergens tend to accumulate more quickly.
Additionally, regular vacuuming of carpets, rugs, and furniture, cleaning surfaces, and bathing your pet frequently will help keep allergen levels low throughout your home.
The fantastic news for dog lovers is that some dogs are considered hypoallergenic dogs, which means they shed minimally. Although they DO shed a tiny amount, the dander present is so minuscule that it is unlikely to trigger a reaction.
Some examples of popular hypoallergenic dog breeds include:
- Toy, Miniature, and Standard Poodle.
- Yorkshire Terrier.
- Shih Tzu.
- Bichon Frise.
- Afghan Hound.
Medications for Pet Allergies
If avoidance is not possible, medication may help reduce the severity of symptoms when exposed to pets or other allergens. Here are some common medications that can help with the sneezing fits when Fido is in the room.
The most common type of medication used to treat pet allergies is antihistamines. These drugs work by blocking histamine, a natural substance in your body that is released when your immune system senses an allergen. Histamine attaches to cells, which can trigger an allergic reaction.
Common over-the-counter antihistamines include Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and Claritin (loratadine). Both are effective at treating mild pet allergies, but they may not be as effective for more severe cases.
Corticosteroids are another type of medication used to treat pet allergies. These drugs reduce inflammation in the body caused by allergens such as pollen or dust mites.
Corticosteroids can be taken orally or applied topically directly on the skin for localized relief from itching and irritation. Popular corticosteroid medications include prednisone and hydrocortisone cream.
Nasal sprays are an effective way to treat pet allergies because they target the source of the problem directly. Nasal sprays work by blocking histamine receptors in the mucus membranes of your nose to reduce sneezing and other symptoms associated with pet allergies.
Popular nasal sprays include Flonase (fluticasone) and Nasacort (triamcinolone). However, nasal sprays can have side effects such as drowsiness or dizziness, so it’s crucial to consult your doctor before using them.
Immunotherapy is a long-term option for people with pet allergies who want to reduce their symptoms without relying on medications. This therapy involves exposing patients slowly but surely to small doses of allergens over time so that their bodies learn how to tolerate them and prevent allergic reactions from occurring in the future.
Immunotherapy can either be administered through injections or oral drops under the tongue and is especially effective in children with pet allergies.
With so many options for treating pet allergies, finding the right medication for your pup doesn't have to be overwhelming.
Talk to your physician or healthcare professional about which option would best suit your needs, and keep an eye out for any potential side effects that could occur while taking these medications.
Pet allergies can be a challenging issue for both humans and animals alike, but with proper management, they don’t have to be debilitating!
Understanding how pet allergies work is essential for creating an environment where everyone can thrive – both human and canine alike.
We hope this article has helped give insight into what signs indicate someone might have an allergy and how best to manage those allergies once diagnosed. Good luck!