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Cats and Allergies

14 April 2013
Cats and Allergies

Allergies that cause allergic reactions are called triggers or allergens. Almost anything can be an allergen; including pollen, dust mites, detergents, tobacco smoke, insect stings, pets, feathers and perfume. The severity of a reaction to allergens varies dramatically from person to person. Symptoms include:

Sneezing and a running or blocked nose

Itchy and watery eyes

Coughing and wheezing

Itchy skin

Asthma and eczema sufferers may find that their symptoms are exacerbated by the presence of an allergen.

Am I allergic to cats?

For some people it is fairly obvious that they are allergic to cats because they have an almost immediate reaction to a cat entering a room. In other cases it may not be so easy to tell, particularly if someone is allergic to more than one trigger in their environment.

If you think you (or a family member) might be allergic to your cat it is a good idea to have a trial separation to determine if the cat is the cause of the reaction. Cats are often singled out because they are easily identifiable but it is important to remember that they are just one possible household cause and that dust mites are by far the most common trigger for house-born allergies.

If you don’t own a cat but are thinking of getting one, a simple visit to someone who has a cat or to an Adoption Centre will show you whether you are allergic or not.

Is there anything I can do to ease my symptoms?

There are a number of different things that significantly ease allergy symptoms, including:

Using anti-histamine tablets or a nasal spray (consult your doctor first)

Designating some areas as cat-free zones, particularly bedrooms

Regular cleaning of rooms where the cat sleeps (vacuumed rooms should be allowed to settle as vacuuming stirs up allergens)

Grooming your cat outdoors and wiping him with a damp cloth

Washing your cat’s bed regularly

In tests, Petal Cleanse (www.biolife-international.co.uk) alleviated the symptoms of 90% of sufferers. For more information on Petal Cleanse, and many other products endorsed by Allergy UK, visit their website www.allergyuk.org or phone their helpline on 01608 686626

Certain breeds and even certain cats are better for allergy sufferers than others because of their fur (trial and error is the only way to tell if this is the case for you). Interestingly it is a cat’s skin cells that are usually the trigger, not the fur.

Can I get a cat if I am allergic?

If you still want a cat even though you have a reaction to them then your symptoms are probably mild to moderate and therefore manageable via the steps above. Some people find that repeated exposure to the same cat or cats over time banishes their allergic reaction altogether.

Should I keep my cat?

The answer to this varies greatly from person to person. First you must make sure that it is the cat causing the allergic reaction; you don’t want to go through the stress and upset or rehoming a much-loved pet only to discover that stress is what brings on your asthmatic attacks!

In the end, the decision about whether to get or keep a cat depends entirely on you and the severity of your reaction. In some cases the symptom-easing steps above may provide enough relief for you to live happily with a cat but in others it is advisable to avoid cats and seek advice from your doctor.