If you have ever had a pet, chances are you may have experienced an allergic reaction to their hair. If this is the case, it’s important that you know what your symptoms are telling you about yourself and your allergies. Are they just something temporary or do they point to a larger problem? Despite popular belief, animal hair is in fact one of the most common allergies in pets.
The good news is that there are ways for people who suffer from animal allergies to still enjoy pet companionship in their homes.
There are several ways that pet owners can find out if they may have this allergy and how to treat it.
The first step in dealing with any kind of allergy or sensitivity is trying to understand what it all means and where it comes from. Allergies can be uncomfortable but they don’t need to stop us from enjoying life.
With some simple changes, we can live healthy lives while still having the company of furry friends at home.
Understanding Animal Hair and Allergies
Animal hair, like human hair, is made up largely of protein. The fur and feathers on animals’ bodies keep them warm, protect them from weather and injury, and identify their species to other animals.
These proteins – whether found in pets or elsewhere – are typically harmless but for those with allergies , they are anything but.
When allergens get into the body, the immune system overreacts to their presence by producing histamines that launch an attack against them. Histamines are chemicals that are meant to protect the body from foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria, but in allergies to pet hair or other allergens, they cause all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms. The release of so many histamines results in an “allergic reaction.”
Symptoms of Animal Hair Allergies
The best way to tell if you have animal hair allergies is by looking at the symptoms you are experiencing after contact with animals or pet hair.
Common symptoms include –
- itchy skin
- watery eyes
- runny nose
- coughing and sneezing
- Postnasal drip.
- Facial pressure and pain.
The nature of these symptoms can vary widely. Some pets may cause more watery eyes than runny noses, while others might affect the skin or respiratory system instead.
These symptoms will often worsen upon first exposure and then decrease in intensity over time as the person becomes used to their presence. This is called “conditioning”.
Most people will experience a low-grade reaction to animal hair as soon as they come in contact with it, but those who are more sensitive may have a stronger initial response and suffer from symptoms for longer periods of time.
In some cases, the severity or chronicity of a person’s allergies may be worsened by other factors in their life. Stress , for example, can make allergies worse
Seeing a doctor when animal hair allergies first develop is important because they can prescribe medications that may help to decrease the severity of reactions or ease the symptoms altogether. These are usually taken before being exposed to an allergen so that they are not at full strength during an exposure.
An allergist may also be able to test a person’s reaction to the allergen and develop a desensitization treatment that can decrease their reaction over time. Again, this is most effective when administered before initial exposure.
In severe cases, steroids or adrenaline might be necessary but should only be taken under close supervision.
How do you know if your allergic to animal hair?
If you’ve ever walked into a house where pets live and immediately noticed that something just wasn’t right, you might be allergic to animal hair. There are many symptoms that can indicate an allergy to pet hair or dander, which is the dead skin cells animals leave behind.
Pet allergies are common in adults and children alike, but it’s important to know what signs to look out for if you think this might be an issue for you.
Signs of an animal hair allergy include
- itchy, watery eyes
- a runny or stuffy nose
- coughing and sneezing
- a tightness in the chest
- eczema ,
- dry, itchy skin
If you have any of these issues more often than not when in the presence of pet hair, visit your doctor for an official diagnosis.
You might find that changing up your cleaning habits or even getting rid of furry friends altogether puts you on the road to better health. However, talking to your doctor is the only way to know for sure if you are allergic to animal hair.
If you think you are having an allergic reaction, call your doctor or seek medical attention immediately. If it’s not an emergency but you need advice, contact your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment.
If you are not sure whether your symptoms are serious enough for medical attention or if they are just mild, it is still a good idea to call your doctor and talk it over.
Ways to reduce pet hair allergies
- Washing pets regularly with shampoo can reduce skin irritations and dander on their skin.
- Bathe at least once a month to prevent an itchy, flaky scalp, which can aggravate hair allergies
- Brushing your pet every day removes much of the hair that accumulates in their coat and eliminates much of the dander on their skin before it is shed into the environment
- Don’t miss any spots. Pay special attention to the areas near the pet’s face, such as behind their ears and along their legs
- Vacuum frequently, paying extra attention to homes with multiple pets or those with long-haired animals
- Wear a mask while you’re cleaning to avoid breathing in allergens that can irritate your respiratory system or worsen existing conditions like asthma.
- Limit your exposure to animal hair as much as possible. Keep pets out of the bedroom and off furniture that you sit on every day, and don’t allow them in your car if it can be avoided.
Though it can be difficult to avoid pet hair altogether, remembering these steps will help you reduce your exposure to allergens.