Allergy & Asthma-Kent H. DeYarman, MD

Topics in Allergy

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Reducing Exposure to Animal Allergens

Animal allergens, especially those from cats, dogs, rodents, horses, and cows are a common cause of respiratory allergy symptoms. Cats are probably the biggest problem because of extremely high levels of allergen produced by cats. The allergens are especially high in the animal secretions such as saliva, urine, etc and these contaminate the fur, shed skin particles (dander) and bedding. The allergens may become airborne easily and stay airborne for hours, becoming widely distributed through the home or work environment. They can be carried on clothing to schools, offices, cars and many places where the animals never go. Symptoms from animal allergy may be obvious but sometimes are subtle and not obvious with lower grade allergy or low grade continual exposure.


Avoidance measures that are simple to implement and have been proven to be effective include:


*Find existing pets a new home-completely remove pets from the house.
Do not bring pets into the home.

Avoidance measures that are difficult to implement or have not been proven to be effective include:


*Restrict the pet to one area (minimally effective because the allergens are easily distributed through the house as they remain airborne for hours).

*Keep the pet out of the allergic person’s bedroom.

*High efficiency (HEPA) room air filters can reduce animal allergen levels. These are available locally and through the internet. There are few reliable comparison studies of HEPA filters. Consumer Reports is an unbiased source and preferred the Honeywell Enviracaire filter. This is available in several different sizes.

*Central electrostatic air filters may also help reduce levels of animal allergen in the home.

*Covering your mattress, pillows, box springs with dust proof covers may help. These are available locally (Wal-Mart, Fred Meyers, etc) or through allergy product companies on the internet. Make sure they are comfortable-breathable and not plastic feeling.

*Washable bedding that is washed every 1-2 weeks.

*Removing carpet and other reservoirs for allergens in the bedroom.

*Wash the pet weekly (not easy to do).

Clearly, removing the pet from the home is by far the best measure. Exposure to animal allergens over the years contributes to cumulative low grade injury that can gradually and eventually become permanent and potentially severe.