Being a cat parent when you’re allergic to cats is hard! In fact, for some cat owners it can become more than hard. It can be life threatening. How can you deal with and treat your cat allergy? Can you prevent them from becoming worse? Who is most at risk for cat allergies?
For most people, cat allergies might not be able to be eliminated, but they can be managed. For those whose allergies cannot be managed, including those with severe asthma and severe reactive asthma, should not be around or live with cats in any capacity. But for the rest of us there are things we can do and ways that our cat allergies can be managed.
Facts about Cat Allergens
There are some facts about cat allergens that are very helpful to know when you are immersed in the battle to manage your reaction to them.
- Cat allergens are airborne. You must breathe them in to be affected by them.
- Although the individual cat allergen is small, it is airborne for a long time.
- The rate of re-contamination is very high.
- It is not the cat hair that causes the allergic reaction but rather a protein in the sebaceous glands – microscopic exocrine glands in the skin that secrete an oily or waxy matter, called sebum, to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair of mammals. This protein when attached to dried skin – dander – is flakey and becomes airborne.
Prevent Your Allergic Reactions to Your Cats with These Steps:
Keep all cats out of your bedroom. It is not enough to just not let them in your bed. Keep them out of your bedroom entirely. Once you have banned the cats from the bedroom discard your current bedding, drapes and pillows, as they are contaminated with cat dander and dust mites. Purchase allergy proof plastic covers for your bed. This will prevent most allergens from returning if you keep the cats out of the bedroom.
To be as careful as possible, wash your new bedding twice every month and do so in very hot water – at least 140 degrees. Be patient. It can take a few months to get rid of all of the cat allergens that are in your bedroom.
Kathryn Primm, a veterinarian at Applebrook Animal Hospital, says, “I am allergic to my cats and I am forced to limit their exposure to my bedroom and carpet. It helps to wipe my cats down with a damp cloth as often as possible and wash their bedding regularly. When I know that they like a certain place to sleep, I cover it with a washable sheet so I can wash it. It is important to note that the allergen is present in the skin and saliva of cats and not just the hair, so even a hairless cat will induce allergic symptoms.”
Use a HEPA air filter in the rooms that are inhabited by the cats. Use one for each room. This will help get rid of a lot of the cat allergens floating around in the air. Attach a HEPA filter to your heating and cooling system for full house cleaning.
Vacuum your home weekly with a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner.
Brush your cat in a confined space. Wear a mask and disposable gloves. Put the excess cat hair in a zipped plastic bag with your disposable gloves and throw it away. Store your cat brush in a sealed container.
Increase the ventilation in your home so that fresh air gets in and allergens get out. Research has shown that dander can get in carpets and furniture in a way nothing else can. Try a vapor steamer to clean the house.
Make an Appointment with An Allergist
Allergists are doctors that specialize in treating allergies and asthma. At your first appointment you will be tested to see what you are allergic to. The doctor will also recommend a good allergy medication for you to take. At your second appointment the doctor will go over your allergies and how severe they are. The next step is immunotherapy. Even if your cat allergy is mild let your allergist know that you want this allergy included in your immunotherapy. You’ll start getting shots weekly, which include your allergens. Over time you will only have to go biweekly, then monthly, until you no longer have to get the shots. This trains your immune system to not react to the allergen, essentially curing your cat allergies.
You do not have to give up your cats unless you have extreme asthma or extreme reactive asthma. Follow the tips above and your reactions to your cats should decrease substantially.