LIONS FOUNDATION OF CANADA DOG GUIDES
Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides and its founding program, Canine Vision Canada, was established in 1983. It’s the largest school of its kind in Canada with its training school in Oakville and breeding facility in Breslau.
What You Should Know About Being Allergic to Cats
To understand certain people’s allergic reactions to cats, we have to look at the causes and symptoms before getting into diagnosis and treatment.
More people are allergic to cats than they are to dogs. Sometimes it’s not obvious since dust, dust mites, mold spores and plants (in and around the house) can also cause allergies.
Before jumping to conclusions or trying to treat yourself, consult your General Practitioner. He or she will probably recommend a specialist to confirm or rule out cat allergies. If you are allergic to your cat (or other cats) and refuse to part ways (like a good owner would) you need to manage your symptoms.
Why are Some People Allergic to Cats?
- Genes: likelihood of allergies can be increased if family members also suffer from them
- Immune system: your body can confuse an allergen for bacteria or a virus and produce antibodies to protect your body, but this can cause a runny nose, itching, a rash or asthma
- Different ‘parts’ of a cat can cause different types of allergies whether inhaled or touched: dead skin cells (dander), fur, saliva and/or urine can get on clothes, be in the air, get onto furniture and bedding or hang around on dust particles
What Symptoms Can Be a Sign of Cat Allergies?
Because allergens can travel and ‘hide’, you don’t have to be around cats to get exposed to them. Allergies may take a while to appear, but usually reactions occur soon after exposure. Most people tend to be most allergic to cat saliva and skin. You don’t even have to get licked by a cat. When cats groom, as they so frequently do, their saliva travels to most parts of their fur.
Symptoms can include:
- Rash on face, neck or upper chest
- Ongoing cough caused by a postnasal drip
- Acute asthma attack that can trigger chronic asthma
- Stuffy nose and inflamed eyes caused by itching and swelling
- Red, itchy bumps and/or hives on skin after contact with an allergen
- Respiratory issues: wheezing, coughing and/or difficulty breathing
How is One Diagnosed as ‘Cat Allergic’?
To determine if you’re allergic to cats, you can go for skin or blood tests, conducted by professionals.
Skin prick test
Essentially an allergist will prick your skin and expose it to tiny amounts of different allergens and monitor reactions. A red, itchy bump usually confirms a cat allergy.
Intradermal skin test
Essentially, possible allergens are injected under the skin of the forearm. Red, itchy bumps usually confirm the allergy. This test is considered more accurate than the prick test, but can also produce false positives: reaction without allergy.
Before going for skin tests, make sure you’re not using products or medications than can interfere with test results.
Age and/or existing skin conditions may not allow for skin tests. Alternatively, blood tests are performed to detect and measure the amount of allergen-specific antibodies in blood. The results are slightly delayed, but the allergic reactions to skin testing is avoided.
How Can Cat Allergies Be Treated?
Treatment options include:
- Cromolyn sodium
- Leukotriene inhibitors
- Corticosteroid nasal sprays
- Over-the-counter decongestant sprays
- Allergy shots known as immunotherapy
There are also home remedies to consider
- Air purifiers can reduce allergens for cat allergies as well as other allergens
- Nasal lavage: rinse nasal passages with salt water to reduce congestion, postnasal drip and sneezing (you can buy saline or make salt water at home, just get the ratios right)
Infants and Allergies
The debate about whether exposing infants to pets is harmful or beneficial continues and studies have conflicting conclusions. Concerns should be discussed with your doctor, whether you’re planning to fall pregnant, are pregnant or if you’re currently raising an infant – especially if symptoms are representing themselves.
How Can Cat Allergies and Reactions Be Prevented or Reduced?
The most obvious answer in terms of prevention: avoid the allergen(s).
Unfortunately, in many cases, this isn’t possible or practical, especially if you’re a cat lover and owner. You can, however, try the following:
- Install an air filter
- Keep your bedroom cat-free
- Dust and clean with a face mask
- Wash up after touching/playing with your cat
- Control your home’s humidity level if possible
- Ideally use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter vacuum
- Vacuum twice a week or even more if necessary
- Frequently replace/change air conditioner and furnace filters
- Hire someone who is not allergic to cats to assist with cleaning
- Heating and air conditioning vents can be covered with filtering materials
- Replace mats/furniture covers with washable versions and wash them often
- Wood/tiled flooring is ideal so remove or reduce unnecessary carpeting/mats and upholstered furniture that you don’t need
If your allergies get worse, or are severe to start with, talk to your doctor about long-term treatment options.
You may have to consider finding your cat a new home. If you choose this option, know that it may take weeks or even months for all the allergens to disappear. Although the thought is heartbreaking, it may be better for both of you.