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Pets, Allergies, and You

This post was written by jd on April 1, 2010
Posted Under: animals,Local Writers & Contributors

by Lisa J. Lehr

It’s spring!

While most people are busy doing little happy dances about the longer days and warmer, sunnier weather, allergy sufferers often have a different reaction: dread.

For people with year-round allergies to pets, however, spring just adds insult to injury. Tragically, allergies are among the most common reasons people give up their pets, and the misguided fear that a child may develop allergies prevents some people from having pets in the first place.

The good news is that this is all totally unnecessary. Some education about pets, people, and allergies will save a lot of pets from the animal shelter, and a lot of kids from the deprivation of growing up without pets.

Recently, numerous studies have found that kids who grow up in a home with dogs and cats actually have a significantly lower risk of developing common indoor and outdoor allergies. This means not only to cats and dogs, but also to dust mites, grass, ragweed, and Alternaria, a fungus found in the air.

Many studies have found lower rates of allergies and asthma among children who grew up on a farm and were around lots of animals, as well as among people who have continually owned a pet as compared to new pet owners or to people who had pets earlier in life but not currently.

In the February 2006 issue of Reader’s Digest, “Scratch Those Allergies” (page 208), with advice from allergist Clifford Bassett, MD gives the following suggestions:

–Ban pets from the bedroom, and get a HEPA air purifier.

–No pet is completely hypoallergenic, but those that shed more trigger more symptoms.

–Vacuum and dust often to eliminate sneeze-inducing dander and fur.

–Bathe and brush your pet often, especially if he sheds. If your symptoms are severe, have someone else do it for you.

I’d like to add a few points:

–Don’t be too quick to assume you or your child is allergic to a pet when it could easily be something else—a pillow or teddy bear, the sofa, the carpet, or anything capable of harboring allergens. Cats, especially, get blamed for a lot of allergic reactions they didn’t cause.

–Brush and/or vacuum your sofa, wash your bedspread and throw pillows, and shake out porous, crud-collecting items outdoors. Look in pet stores or online for products (including sticky rollers, strips, and sheets) that remove fur from furniture surfaces.

— Brush your pets daily and use an allergy-reducing spray such as Allerpet.

–Wash your hands after handling your pets, as well as their toys, bedding, dishes, etc. Be especially careful not to touch your nose or eyes before you wash your hands.

–Keep your pets’ skin healthy by feeding them a good quality food and a fatty acid supplement.

–Put electrostatic filters in your heating and air conditioning system. Every time you run it, the filters attract fur (along with other allergens). They’re more costly than the disposable ones, but they last indefinitely. (You just have to clean them.)

–If at all possible, get rid of your wall-to-wall carpet. With smooth flooring (vinyl, hardwood, tile, laminate) and a few area rugs, you’ll be amazed at how much cleaner your home feels and smells. Not only do you have less allergen-attracting surface area, it is much easier to thoroughly clean smooth floors and area rugs than installed carpet.

–Don’t assume that longhaired pets are more allergenic than short haired ones. Short haired pets can shed just as much, especially those with thick coats. They may actually shed more, because a long-haired pet’s fur tends to hang up in the surrounding fur rather than fall to the floor. (That’s why these pets need to be brushed.)

–While no pet is completely hypoallergenic, there’s a range, depending on the proteins in the particular pet’s fur. Regardless of fur length, all pets have dander, saliva, and urine, all of which are sources of allergy. If you’re adopting a new pet, “try out” several to check for a reaction.

–If you allow your cats outdoors (you shouldn’t, but that’s another article), they’re probably bringing in pollen and other allergens, so you may think you’re allergic to your cat when it’s really just the stuff they bring in. This applies to dogs as well, but cats are more likely to deposit their outdoor stuff all over your furniture.

–Do everything you can to accommodate pets in your home. By doing so, you’ll help protect the next generation from allergies—not just to dogs and cats, but to most common allergens.

These suggestions won’t eliminate your spring allergies, but they should help. And they should definitely keep you from being so miserable that you’re tempted to get rid of your pets.

Lisa J. Lehr is a writer and copywriter as well as animal lover living in Grass Valley. She can help you promote your business with a full range of online and offline marketing pieces. A member of Empire Toastmasters, she’s available to speak to your business or professional group. Visit her website www.justrightcopy.com for more information, opt in for a message series, and receive a free Marketing Guide.

Lisa J. Lehr

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