October 2021

Pet Allergies

8 ways to reduce pet allergy symptoms at home

There’s nothing better than a pet — a built-in best friend, furry companion animal and sidekick for all your adventures.

Pets are a source of happiness for many pet owners. After all, they provide love and affection, just without judgment!

Amid all the pet lovers out there, there’s a group of die-hard animal lovers near and dear to our hearts at Curex: pet owners with allergies.

Do you think you’re allergic to your cat, dog or other pet? If so, don’t lose hope. There are options to help mitigate and even reduce your pet allergy symptoms if you suffer dog allergies, cat allergies and more.

Here are seven doctor-recommended tactics to reduce your pet allergies at home.

What are pet allergies?

Pet allergies are simply allergic reactions to allergens created by pets.

These allergies are caused when allergens (such as pet dander and pollen) enter the body. The immune system doesn’t recognize these allergens and releases histamines (usually released in response to infections), causing uncomfortable allergy symptoms.

Pet Dander Allergies

Animal allergies are caused by dander. Dander is dead flecks of skin that all animals shed.

Most pet owners believe that it’s actually their pet’s fur or hair they’re allergic to. But most people aren’t allergic to animal hair or fur at all; they are allergic to the dead skin cells that pets may track around the house.

Many people are also allergic to proteins produced by all animals that are found in the saliva, feces and urine.

The good news is that dander may be contained and possibly even eliminated in some cases. Pet dander may cling to long-haired pets but keeping pets clean and contained in certain areas of the house may help limit allergy symptoms.

Pollen Allergies

Indoor/outdoor pets may track airborne allergens, such as pollen, throughout indoor spaces.

Pollen is an extremely sticky substance that can cling to most surfaces (even smooth surfaces such as metal and glass), which means that it may cling to soft surfaces (such as hair and fabrics) even easier.

Pets that spend time outdoors may attract pollen and track that pollen around the house.

That’s why it’s important to keep pets as clean as possible during allergy seasons and contain pets to certain areas of the home — preferably areas that don’t house soft furniture, such as couches and curtains.

Types of Animal Allergies

It’s possible to be allergic to any animal with dander.

All animals with feathers, hair and fur create dander and protein allergens found in excrement and saliva. Yet, some of the most common pet allergies include cat allergies, dog allergies, rodent allergies and insect allergies.

Cat Allergies

Cat allergies are the most common pet allergies. In fact, twice as many people suffer from cat allergies as dog allergies!

If you’re allergic to cats, you may be allergic to the Fel d 1 protein, found on cats’ skin. If you have a long-haired cat, your cat may simply be tracking pollen around your home during allergy season.

Cats also produce allergens in their saliva and excrement. Since indoor cats use the bathroom inside, there could be allergens lurking in the litter box — and tracked around the home if the cat has litter or excrement stuck to its fur or feet. It's no wonder so many people suffer from cat allergies!

Dog Allergies

Dog allergies are less common than cat ones, but there are still plenty of people suffering from them. Dog saliva and dander contain the f 1 protein.

Just like with cats, dogs can track pollen, feces and urine around the house. Since dogs are considered “inside pets,” they’re more likely to track pollen and other outdoor allergens inside. But since dogs go to the bathroom outdoors, they’re less likely to track excrement around the house.

If you suffer from pet allergies and own a dog, you may simply want to keep your pooch clean and limit its use in certain areas of the home.

Rodent Allergies

Just like with rats and mice that we consider “pests,” pet rodents can cause allergies.

Rodents, like other animals with fur, hair or feathers, shed dander and contain protein allergens in their saliva and excrement.

Since rodents may not have long hair or fur and may not get free reign of the home, they may not be as triggering for allergy sufferers as cats or dogs. Most rodents are strictly indoor pets, so they may not track pollen or other outdoor allergens around the house.

If you’re allergic to animals, you may want to keep rodents contained in a cage or terrarium in one room in your home.

Insect Allergies

Not everyone keeps insects as pets (though some people do!). Others may purchase insects to feed to reptilian pets, such as lizards and snakes.

If you’re planning on purchasing a reptile because you’re looking for an allergy-free pet, you may want to reconsider. Most reptiles eat specific insects (such as crickets) that may also cause an allergic reaction.

Such insects also shed dander, which may trigger allergy symptoms — though insects are usually fed to and consumed by pets relatively quickly.

If you’re already attached to the idea of a reptile, you may simply want to assign feeding duties to another member of your household. It’s also important to keep the areas around reptile enclosures clean of insect dander.

Pet Allergy Symptoms

Pet allergy symptoms are similar to other allergy symptoms (including other environmental allergies and seasonal allergies). Some of the most common symptoms of pet allergies may include:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes and nose
  • Itchy eyes and nose
  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Coughing
  • Respiratory issues

What about hypoallergenic pets?

Many animal lovers search for hypoallergenic pet breeds in hopes of finding a cuddly friend that doesn’t trigger allergy symptoms.

Yet, not many animals are truly hypoallergenic. Since many people may be allergic to the proteins found in pet dander or excrement (and not the hair or fur itself), “hypoallergenic” pets may still cause allergy symptoms.

Pets that grow hair instead of fur may not trigger such severe allergy symptoms and may not attract as much pollen as pets with long fur. Hairless animals may also be a better option for owners suffering from pollen allergies, as hairless pets may attract fewer pollen spores than long-haired or furry pets.

Reducing Pet Allergies at Home

There are several ways to allergies at home with natural allergy treatments, including using HEPA products, grooming pets regularly and trying allergy immunotherapy.

1. Take an allergy test

First things first: it’s important to understand what’s causing your allergic reaction.

An allergic reaction is what happens when the body’s immune system overreacts to an otherwise harmless substance.

While most people think pet allergies come from animal fur, allergic reactions actually originate with animal dander.

Animal dander is a protein that is found in a pet’s skin, saliva and urine. When your pet moves around the house, chases a toy or scratches its ears, its spreading dander.

Before treating allergies, it’s important to take an allergy test to ensure that you’re actually allergic to pet dander — and your allergies aren’t caused by another common home allergen, like dust or mold.

2. Try HEPA products

One way you may reduce allergy symptoms is by using HEPA products. HEPA filters on vacuums and in fans may help trap and contain pet allergens. According to the EPA, HEPA filters have been found to remove, “99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).”

3. Invest in a HEPA air purifier and HEPA vacuum

Pet dander may be all around you.

A HEPA air filter may reduce allergens floating in the air and improve your quality of life while at home.

It’s important to reduce the number of allergens in your home by cleaning. Focus on spots that are magnets for allergens, like carpets, rugs, sofa cushions and other linens.

Invest in a HEPA vacuum and clean your carpets and rugs at least once a week. A vacuum with a HEPA filter will suck up smaller bits of allergens that a traditional vacuum might miss.

This type of filter will also prevent them from circulating back into the air.

4. Keep pets contained

One of the most effective (yet time-consuming) ways to reduce the likelihood of allergy symptoms is by keeping pets (and as result allergens) contained.

Two effective ways to contain allergens are by keeping allergens off pets and by enforcing no-pets policies in certain areas of the home (including bedrooms or other areas with soft furniture and textiles).

5. Keep pets out of the bedroom

While we love snuggling as much as anyone, if you want to improve your quality of sleep, you need to reduce the allergy load in your bedroom.

Dr. Neeta Odgen, an allergist and immunotherapy expert, recommends keeping pets out of the bedroom so that you can maximize rest and recover and keep your immune system operating at its best.

6. Bathe your pet regularly

By bathing your pet regularly, you reduce the allergy load it carries around the house.

Depending on your pet’s disposition, this might be challenging for some!

Ideally, if you’re allergic to pets, you should avoid being the one to bathe your pet. At the very least, wear a mask and wash your hands after.

7. Try allergy medications

Allergy medications have been proven effective at treating allergy symptoms — including pet allergy symptoms.

Allergy medications are available both over the counter (OTC) and by prescription. The most common allergy medications include antihistamines, steroid nasal sprays and saline nasal sprays and eye drops.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines are helpful in reducing pet allergy symptoms. Histamine is the chemical in your immune system that is triggered when it encounters an allergen.

There are many non-drowsy antihistamines that can help reduce your symptoms.

Steroid and Saline Sprays

If you suffer from predominantly nasal allergy symptoms, you may want to try a steroid nasal spray. These sprays target itchy and runny noses as well as sneezing, congestion and sinus pressure.

Some allergy sufferers also find saline sprays an alternative to antihistamine and steroid nasal sprays and saline eye drops an alternative to antihistamine eye drops.

Steroid nasal sprays are available by prescription only, and saline sprays and drops are available over the counter.

Saline sprays and eye drops and steroid nasal sprays are approved for treating symptoms of pet allergies and pollen allergies.

8. Consider allergy immunotherapy

If you’re tired of suffering from allergies, you may want to consider allergy immunotherapy.

Allergy immunotherapy is the only long-lasting way to reduce allergies. It does so by treating the source of the allergies — not the pet allergy symptoms.

Allergy immunotherapy works by reducing your body’s immune response to an allergen. You take regular, controlled micro-doses of an allergen to retrain your body’s immune response.

Two types of allergy immunotherapy are currently available, including subcutaneous and sublingual immunotherapy.

Subcutaneous Immunotherapy

Subcutaneous immunotherapy (also known as allergy shots) is available through a doctor or allergist.

These injections may be administered once a week for the first few months of treatment and once a month thereafter.

Allergy shots generally cost $2,000 per year (though costs depend on the patient's health insurance coverage and the number of allergies treated).

There may be a chance of anaphylaxis during or after allergy immunotherapy injections; a doctor may require patients to remain under supervision for up to 45 minutes after receiving immunotherapy shots.

Your doctor may also require you to carry an epinephrine pen in case of a reaction after you leave the office.

Sublingual Immunotherapy

Sublingual immunotherapy is administered orally, either at a doctor’s office or at home. If administered at home, patients may need to make a video appointment so a clinical specialist may observe for possible anaphylaxis during the first dose.

There is a lower chance of anaphylaxis with sublingual immunotherapy than with subcutaneous immunotherapy.

Sublingual immunotherapy may be administered once, daily.

Before treating patients with allergy immunotherapy, doctors may require allergy testing (at-home, in-office or at a lab).

Curex offers allergy immunotherapy, administered orally, at home after an initial video consultation with an allergen specialist. Allergy immunotherapy through Curex may cost less than allergy shots.

Current allergy immunotherapy costs are:

  • Quarterly Plan ($95/month) - $285 billed every 3 months
  • Annual Plan ($75/month or 20% off) - $900 billed once per year
  • 3-Year Plan ($65/month or 30% off) - $2,340 billed when treatment begins

Get tested for allergies and find out allergy immunotherapy is right for you by speaking with a clinical allergy specialist.

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