Pet Allergy

What is a pet allergy?

A pet allergy refers to a reaction that you have toward your pet’s skin, dander, saliva, or urine. On most occasions, it is the dead skin cells that cause the pet allergy.

Even though nearly any pet can potentially cause an allergy, cats and dogs are the most common triggers of pet allergies. You can be exposed to your pet’s proteins through either direct contact or inhalation.

Note: Pet allergies can potentially worsen other medical issues such as eczema, hives, rhinitis, or even asthma.

If you have a pet allergy, it is highly recommended that you seek immediate medical attention.

What animals cause pet allergy?

  • Dogs and cats: Allergens from cats and dogs are found in the skin cells they shed as well as their urine, saliva, sweat and on their hair. Pet dander is arguably the most common culprit, considering that it is very small and can stay in the air for an extended period with the slightest bit of air circulation. Pet dander easily accumulates on upholstered furniture and also sticks to clothes. Pet saliva is also likely to stick to bedding, carpets as well as clothing. When dry, saliva may become airborne.
  • Rodents and rabbits: Rodent pets may include guinea pigs, mice, gerbils as well as hamsters. Rodent-based allergens are generally present in dander, hair, urine, and saliva. Rabbit allergens are available in dander, saliva, and hair.

Does the type of cat or dog impact the severity of pet allergies?

It is falsely believed that cats or dogs that have fairly short hair do not cause pet allergies. You may have also heard about the term hypoallergenic dogs and cats, which are generally believed to trigger pet allergies – but there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog.

While there are cats and dogs that are minimal shedders, chances are that you might still come into contact with their bodily fluids, skin cells, or even fur – so avoiding an allergy reaction is almost impossible.

What are the most common pet allergy symptoms?

Skin-related symptoms:

  • Allergic dermatitis: Because pet allergies trigger an immune system response, you are likely to experience some skin inflammation, which can manifest as allergic dermatitis.
  • Eczema: Eczema is a skin condition that causes inflammation and blistering on your skin.
  • Hives: These are red, raised patches that appear on your skin.
  • Itchy skin: Pet allergies are also likely to cause some itching.

Nasal passage-related symptoms:

  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Postnasal drip
  • Persistent cough
  • Puffy eyes
  • Bluish skin just below your eyes
  • Nasal congestion
  • Red, watery, itchy eyes
  • Itchy nose, throat, or the roof of your mouth
  • Inability to sleep comfortably throughout the night
  • Facial pressure or pain
  • Puffy eyes
  • Frequent nose rubbing

Asthmatic symptoms:

  • Breathing problems
  • Constant cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness or pain in the chest
  • Lack of sleep or insomnia

Regardless of the type of symptom, they will erupt immediately when you come into direct contact with the pet or if you share a room with the pet.

Sometimes, these symptoms are delayed because of the pet’s fur clinging to either your clothing or furniture after the pet has vanished from the room. The pet dander can linger in the air for some time before you eventually come into contact with them.

When should you see a doctor for pet allergies?

If your symptoms do not improve after two weeks, chances are high that you might have a pet allergy.

If your symptoms and signs are severe, with your nasal passages feeling completely blocked and you also experience sleeping problems, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

Seek emergency assistance if wheezing or shortness of breath worsens.

Who is at risk of developing a pet allergy?

Pet allergies are highly prevalent and anyone can easily experience them. However, research shows that you are more likely to suffer from a pet allergy if either asthma or allergies run in your family.

Being exposed to pets at a younger age can help prevent pet allergies.

 

Are there any complications associated with pet allergies?

Yes, complications include;

  • Chronic or ongoing inflammation of tissues in the nasal passages
  • Obstruction of your sinuses

Those with asthma and pet allergy usually have a tougher time managing their symptoms.

How are pet allergies diagnosed?

Your doctor may use a lighted instrument to evaluate the condition of your nose’s lining. If you suffer from a pet allergy, the lining of your nasal passage may be swollen or appear pale.

For a more accurate diagnosis, your doctor may recommend allergy testing.

A skin prick test involves pricking the surface of an area of your skin with multiple allergies at once. The doctor will then establish whether you are allergic to any particular substance through the presence of swelling or redness at the site of the prick.

If you suffer from other skin conditions such as severe eczema, are on certain medications that may impact the skin prick test results, or are at risk of experiencing a severe reaction to an allergen, your doctor might recommend that you undergo a blood test to diagnose your pet allergy instead.

A blood allergy test involves extracting a blood sample and sending it to the laboratory where your doctor will look for antibodies of specific allergens, indicating what might be causing your allergies.

What pet allergy treatment options are available in Singapore?

Even though there is no cure for pet allergies, there are treatment options that can help manage and alleviate your symptoms.

Medications

  • These medications may include decongestants, antihistamines, steroids to minimize inflammation as well as creams to reduce itchiness.

SLIT (sublingual immunotherapy treatment)

  • Involves administering small doses of an allergen to boost your tolerance and immunity.
  • This will eventually result in a substantial reduction in the severity of your symptoms.
  • The primary goal of sublingual immunotherapy is to build immunity, ensuring you’ll no longer experience severe pet allergy problems.

How can you prevent pet allergies?

  • Do not kiss or hug your pet if you are known to have an allergic reaction.
  • Ventilate your home
  • Own a non-hairy pet
  • Give up your upholstered furniture, rugs, or carpets, as they are known to harbor pet dander
  • Purchase HEPA air filters to eliminate unwanted allergic particles from the atmosphere.
  • Keep your pets away from your bedroom!
  • Have someone else groom your pet
  • Use a micro-filter bagged vacuum when cleaning your home as it prevents allergens from escaping into the air

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