Did you know that over 60% of homes in the US own at least one pet? It is estimated that about 161 million of these pets consist of cats and dogs, the most popular domesticated household pets. Americans do love their pets, but about 15% of us are allergic to them. So if you enjoy having a furry companion but suffer the side effects caused by a pet allergy, you are definitely not alone. If you are fortunate enough not to be affected by pet dander, you most likely have a friend or family member that is. There is quite a bit of resourceful information available on the subject of pet allergies. And like most other subjects, you can find some inaccurate information that causes confusion. Here are some of the most popular misconceptions about allergies to animals.
Myth #1 Animal Hair Triggers Allergic Reactions
It is a common belief that animal hair is the cause of an allergic response to animals. While pet fur can certainly add to the problem and steps should be taken to keep the home as hair-free as possible, it is most important to recognize the actual source of the allergen. The proteins secreted in the saliva and skin of warm-blooded animals, not just cats and dogs, is the root cause of the allergy. These proteins are transferred onto the animal hair and surrounding surfaces, especially during the grooming process. So while more hair will result in more surface for the protein to adhere to, the hair in and of itself is not the source of the allergy.
Myth #2 Hairless Pets Are Hypoallergenic
Nice thought, but no. If it is warm-blooded, grooms itself or sheds skin, it can trigger an allergic response. Again, less hair certainly means less surface to collect dander and the proteins that cause the allergy, but there is no specific cat or dog that is certified as allergy-free. The levels of proteins (for example, Fel d 1 in cats) is unique to every individual cat. So finding that one particular cat does not inflame your allergies does not mean that all cats of that breed will produce the same results.
Myth #3 Pet Dander Is Only Present In Homes With Pets
That would seem logical and wonderful at the same time, but is unfortunately untrue. In fact, according to an in-depth study of the presence of animal allergens in the environment, cat and dog allergens can be detected in all variations of indoor environments even when a cat or dog has never been there. So this includes new construction, schools, museums, offices, and vehicles to name a few. Why would a brand new home or a school test positive for levels of these allergens when an animal has never been inside them? Due to the sticky nature of pet dander it is introduced to all of these unsuspecting environments due to the transfer effect, meaning it is carried on clothing or objects that have come in contact with an animal in another setting and then deposited in a new setting. Of course, the level of concentration of these allergy-causing proteins will be much higher in a home with pets. The highest levels are found in homes with pets that are primarily kept indoors.
Myth #4 The Only Pets That People Are Allergic To Are Cats And Dogs
Sometimes when there is a known allergy to cats or dogs, it may seem like a great option to get another type of animal such as a ferret or hamster. The truth is that every warm-blooded animal out there, domestic or wild, can have dander. All dander has the potential to trigger an allergic reaction as the protein that causes the symptoms is secreted through the skin and saliva. In some animals, such as birds and reptiles, allergens are transmitted through feathers and droppings. So all animals, including fuzzy guinea pigs, farm animals, and wild animals, can produce allergic reactions.
Myth #5 Pet Allergies Aren’t That Big Of A Deal
It’s a pretty common belief that the only thing you have to worry about if you have pet allergies is itchy eyes and sneezing. That’s a belief held mostly by those who do not suffer from a pet allergy. It would be wonderful if all you got was a little sniffle after cuddling with your fat, furry cat. Most of us that are allergic to cats, dogs, and other animals experience a greater number of symptoms. Sometimes, the range of reactions can be quite bothersome and severe. Some individuals react only after close and prolonged cuddling with an animal while others can simply exhibit symptoms just by being in the same home with one. While the idea of cat or dog allergies can be minimized by some, this list of possible reactions certainly matters to those who experience it:
- sneezing, runny nose
- itchy, red, swollen, watery eyes
- sinus congestion, coughing
- disrupted sleep
- difficult, labored breathing
- tightness in chest, wheezing
- allergic dermatitis
- eczema, hives
Myth #6 Removing The Animal Will Provide Immediate Relief
Obviously, the less exposure the less intense the symptoms will likely become. But if the symptoms are still going strong after the pet has been removed, don’t be surprised. It can take up to several months before symptoms improve or disappear. It will require a high level of filtration and deep cleaning to remove the dander as it is capable of attaching to almost any type of indoor surface and over time becomes embedded in cloth surfaces such as furniture, bedding, carpeting, and window coverings.
Myth #7 If You Have a Pet Allergy, You Must Get Rid Of Your Pet
Sometimes, this is the very unfortunate truth. But it is not absolutely the only choice in every situation. In certain cases you may be forced to rehome your pet, but there are times where it can depend on personal choice and being fortunate enough to find successful ways to reduce and manage the symptoms so you and your companion can remain together. Here are a few tips on balancing your allergy symptoms and keeping a pet:
- use free-standing room air cleaners to add extra filtration to rooms where your pet is most often
- use high-efficiency pleated air filters to keep your indoor air as clean as possible
- make your bedroom a “no pet zone” to minimize the concentration of dander where you sleep
- wash your hands often to prevent the transfer of dander to other surfaces as much as possible
- saving the most fun part for last, when it comes to dander you cannot clean too much!
At US Home Filter, we enjoy helping our customers solve filtration issues and we are here to answer your questions about your indoor air quality and allergy concerns. We recommend our highest-rated MERV 13 pleated filters for your home or business if you desire the cleanest air possible and suffer from severe allergies such as those that can be triggered by your loving pets. Whether you need AC or furnace filters, a specialty Whole House filter, a Grille filter, or even a custom air filter size, we have a professional and helpful staff ready to take care of you!