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Tips to reduce allergies to pets

Posted by Jennifer on June 8th, 2010

894326_sneezeYou can reduce or even eliminate allergies to your family pets, just by following some very simple steps! Cats and dogs are the most common pets that cause human allergic reactions. While it is rare for a human’s allergies to a pet to be so severe (and unresponsive when all these tips are used) that they can no longer live with that pet, that doesn’t mean they are fun. So try our easy tips below, and you won’t have to give away your family dog or cat to solve an allergy problem in yourself or your kids!

To learn why I’m an “expert” on pet allergies, you can read below my tips. DISCLAIMER: these are just my personal tips. They are not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Step 1: Reduce allergens in your life.

The more your body is having to put up a “fight” to allergens, the harder it is for it to win. Do you know everything you might be even slightly allergic to? An allergist can test you for a few dozen allergens, but in the battle against allergies, it may be easier to start out with reducing as much as possible the most common allergens in your life. Pet dander, dust, mold, pollen… they all float in our home’s air and stick to every surface! When you reduce ALL the allergens in your home, you reduce your allergic reaction to your pet. Here are just some ideas how:

  • clean your house daily with natural, perfume free cleaning products
  • vacuum what you cannot mop, such as couches, your mattress
  • get a sealed “allergy” vacuum – that filters & traps dust/allergens inside
  • use pet hair rollers daily (or more often!) on fabric surfaces – we like the sticky washable ones
  • replace carpet with hard surface flooring, or keep pets out of carpeted rooms
  • if you cannot remove carpet, steam clean monthly (or weekly/biweekly)
  • if you must have rugs, replace wool with cotton, & wash using 140 degree+ water weekly
  • replace curtains with hard surface window coverings that can be wiped down weekly
  • invest in high-quality HEPA air purifier – starting with one in the bedroom
  • cover mattresses and pillows with specially designed allergy covers
  • wash blankets weekly on hot using hypo allergenic laundry soap
  • wash your clothes and  yourself in non-perfumed soap and shampoo
  • leave your shoes at the door to avoid tracking allergens inside
  • try eliminating or drastically reducing dairy (milk, eggs) from your diet
  • try eliminating other common food allergens from your diet (wheat, soy, peanuts)
  • avoid scented body care products

Step 2: Reduce allergens from your pet

If you are having a reaction to a newly adopted pet, often simply letting another family member or friend (or paid pet cleaner) handle that pet and cleaning as much as possible for you, while you slowly over a few weeks get used to that new pet, can be a huge help. Here are some other tips to try to help as well:

  • wash your hands immediately after handling your new pet
  • brush your pet daily – dogs outside your home, cats in a bathroom with a closed door, surfaces wiped off  afterward (ideally done by a nonallergic family member)
  • after brushing, using a towel dampened with water, wipe off their fur, then wash towel (do not reuse)
  • bathe dogs weekly – use a gentle moisturizing unscented pet shampoo, or alternate one week with just an unscented conditioner
  • once a week, wipe down pet using a pet allergen reducing liquid like Allerpet for Cats or Dogs (about $7) available in pet supply stores or online.
  • use a damp towel to wipe down pets that go outside, before they come inside, to wipe off outside allergens
  • clean litterboxes daily, outside, and wash out completely weekly
  • use unscented dust-free cat litter
  • wash pet beds weekly in unscented laundry soap & hot water
  • wash your pet’s toys weekly
  • feed your pets premium food (helps keep skin healthy)
  • if your pet has dry or flaking skin, with your vet’s approval, feed a skin & coat supplement
  • keep pets out of your bedroom… or at least off the bed!

Then, slowly, one by one… You may need to start out using ALL the tips above to reduce your allergies enough to be comfortable. But then, try not using one, for a few weeks, and see how you do! For example, let’s say you’d prefer to have your pets sleep in your bedroom. However, at first, you may do best with no pets in you bedroom, keeping the door closed. Then in a few weeks (or months), try the door open with a baby gate or screen keeping pets out. Then allowed them in the room but not while you are in there sleeping. Then try your pets sleeping on the floor… and then, if you want, a pet on the bed! If at any point your allergies become uncomfortable, take one step back.

How I got to be an “expert” on pet allergies… I suffered from allergies my entire childhood. I had asthma and hay fever and was allergic to pretty much anything that bloomed or walked on four legs! I spent the latter half of my childhood living in the lush countryside with all sorts of animals, so I have decades of experience dealing with allergies to pets. I still have to follow many of the steps below to keep it that way, and new pets and certain times of the year or environments (a field of goldenrod) will make my nose and eyes tingle, but that mild reaction is just a faint reminder of the full-blown inability to breath, itchy eyes, and runny nose symptoms I used to suffer from on a daily basis.

I now live in a home with many dogs and cats and am almost totally allergy (and medication) free!

Photo credit: evah
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