Critter Corner: Pet Allergies are Nothing to Sneeze At
Medication-free steps you can take.
Summer is in the air: the flowers are blooming, cottonwood is piling up in snowy drifts and you can’t make it out of the house with out a tissue, and dose of allergy medicine. Even your pets make you itch.
“I’m allergic to animals” seems to be an easy way out for people who don’t want to stay with you, or parents dodging a plea for a dog or cat. Yes, some people truly are sensitive, and the symptoms irritating.
First of all allergies are tied to your overall system. For example if the cat you’ve had since fall is suddenly causing your eyes to water, take a look at what else is stressing you – is it the pollen in the air, the dander you’ve raised in spring cleaning or the pesky cottonwoods?
The way to reduce your reaction to indoor pets is based on reducing your exposure to the allergens – all allergens. There are expensive steps to take like replacing carpet with hard flooring, but some quick steps you can take that won’t cost as much and are easier to implement.
• Wash in hot water and sanitize if possible all bedding and curtains. The bedroom is especially important since airborne dander can land on your pillow and cling to curtains for weeks.
• Make pet bedding easy to wash. Use hot water and sanitizer cycle if possible.
• For laundry don’t forget to use scentless allergy free product. Vinegar in the softener cycle helps get rid of soap residue and cuts down on static.
• Banish pets from the bed or the bed room is possible, at least during the height of allergy season.
• Vacuum, vacuum, vacuum, using HEPA filters. The good news here is that it is best if a non- allergic person does the work since this will stir up dust. If you have to do this wear a mask. Manufacturers like 3M make dust and pollen masks, although you might have a better experience with a respirator vent for easy exhalation. These can be bought at a hardware store for about $2-$3 each.
• Use scentless clumping litter. Corn litter has also helped those with reactions to the fine dust raised even the the dust-less litters. Always wear a mask, or get someone else for the job.
• Steam cleaners are now available for floors and carpeting. A clothing steamer can also be used on non-washable drapes.
• Get your pet groomed regularly by a non-allergic person. A bath for dogs is highly recommended, and cats might have to do with a through brushing. Like vacuuming, wear a mask if you must.
• If you are going to spend a lot of time with your pet, say in front of the TV or at a computer while you are working, have special "pet clothes" or an easy to wash wrap. If your dog doesn't mind, try a light weight outfit or sweater. This will help trap dander, but must be washed regularly and checked for comfort.
• Keep the animals at arm’s length, don’t let them near your face. After you’re done petting them wash your hands.
• Your pet has grown to depend on you. Despite the extra work your allergies might cause, don't forget to enjoy the special quality they give your life. Spend some extra time with them to make up for the changes in their environment.
These suggestions should help make your life easier, in a drug-free way. There are products on the market to decrease shedding (keep in mind it is the dander not usually the fur that is the allergen) and improve the skin condition of your pet. Natural remedies, over-the-counter and prescription medicine is also available. Reduce overall exposure to allergens and your sensitivity to pets should decrease. A pet friendly site to check out is ASPCA’s guide to allergies.