I think I might be allergic to my
cat. Is there anything I can do?
-- Ah Choo
Many people are allergic to their
cats but they continue to live happily with them. Your success at achieving
this will depend on your willingness to make changes and how severe your
allergy symptoms are.
It is important to realize that while
you may be allergic to your cat, you may have other allergies as well.
Sometimes people find that they have trouble with their "cat" allergy,
only when they are having problems with their "ragweed/grass/mold/etc."
allergy. For these people, there are only a few weeks out of the year when
medication is needed to make them comfortable. The rest of the year, the
cat causes no allergy symptoms.
Some allergy doctors recommend "getting
rid of your pets" as a first step in dealing with allergies. If your doctor
advises this, you need to make it clear that the cat is part of your family
and it is staying. There are doctors who will work with you to make you
as comfortable as possible when they know that you are committed to keeping
your pet. You should consider changing doctors if your doctor insists the
cat must go. If you are undergoing desensitization with allergy shots,
talk to your doctor about including material from your own cat in the shots.
Here are some suggestions that should
help you live with your cat.
Don't let the cat sleep with you. In fact, keep the bedroom
door shut and preserve your sleeping area as a cat free zone. This way,
you are more likely to get the rest you need.
Get an air cleaner for the bedroom and other rooms where
you spend a lot of time. Look for a machine which has a HEPA filter. These
filters can take dander and hair out of the air plus other things you might
be allergic to. Be sure to change the filters often! The manufacturer's
recommendations on filter changes are usually not frequent enough for allergy
sufferers. If you start to have more allergy trouble than usual, clean
any cleanable filters and change the others. Be sure that the unit you
get is rated for the same size room as the one in which you use it.
Vacuum frequently. This helps reduce the allergens your body
must deal with and can help with dust allergies plus cat allergies. Be
sure to vacuum the furniture and draperies as well as the carpets and floors.
If possible, get someone else to do the vacuuming.
Don't leave your clothing or personal belongings where your
cat can rub on them or sleep on them. Keep anything that you will have
close contact with in a cat free space. Try putting out towels or purr
pads for your cat to lie on. Place them on furniture or other favorite
nap spots. Then wash or discard the used bedding frequently.
Some people report that it helps to treat the cat with Allerpet
for Cats or other similar products. These commercially available products
are sprayed on the cat's fur. They help reduce the enzymes on the cat hair
and dander that cause the allergic reaction. Others report that rinsing
the cat in distilled or deionized water once a week reduces allergy problems.
When you handle your cat, be sure that you do not touch your
face or eyes without first washing your hands. If you do end up with itchy,
watery eyes, there are antihistamine eye drops available which will calm
down the attack.
When the allergy symptoms flair up, you will need an antihistamine
to make you comfortable. There are many medications available over-the-counter
and by prescription. Often, finding the right one for you is a trial and
error process. If the medication works, but makes you sleepy, allow a week
or more to let your body adjust and see if the sleepiness persists.
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