If you are allergic to animals, including dogs, cats, rodents, birds, or horses, the best way to limit your allergy symptoms is to avoid contact with the animal. But almost half of all households in the U.S. have at least one pet, and many people consider their pets to be part of the family. If eliminating animals from your life is not an option, limiting your exposure to animal allergens can help you control your allergy symptoms.
The primary cause of pet allergies is skin dander (dry flakes of skin shed by the animal). Other pet allergens include saliva and urine. If you are determined to have a pet, choosing one without fur or feathers is the best way to avoid allergy symptoms. Some options include fish, turtles, and snakes. But remember that mold, another possible allergen, tends to grow where moisture is present. So large fish tanks and the humidity they add to a room can also contribute to allergy symptoms.
If you are determined to keep your dog, cat, or bird, here are some tips to limit your exposure to pet allergens in your home:
• Keep it clean – Pet allergens tend to be sticky. So get rid of fabrics and floor coverings that will hold on to allergens. Wash down walls, windows, and baseboards. Get rid of wall-to-wall carpets and use throw rugs that can be washed frequently.
• Limit fabrics – If possible, replace fabric upholstered furniture with leather that can easily be wiped clean. Curtains and blinds can also trap and hold pet allergens.
• No vacancy – Keep all pets out of the bedroom. Clean or replace all bedding pets may have been near, including pillows. If you can’t replace your mattress and box spring, cover them with allergen-blocking covers.
• Steam clean - If you can’t do without carpeting, chose a carpet with a low pile, keep it vacuumed, and steam clean it regularly to remove allergens.
• Dust masks – Protect yourself from dust and allergens that are stirred up during cleaning by wearing a dust mask.