Insights | Allergy | Pets
A practical guide to living with pet allergies
Living with pet allergies can be challenging, especially when you love animals but suffer from allergic reactions. But with the right strategies and a few simple lifestyle changes, you can help create a harmonious environment and enjoy pet companionship without compromising your wellbeing.
Here are eight practical ways to manage pet allergies while caring for your furry friends.
How to live with pet allergies
1. Understand pet allergies
Before delving into coping mechanisms, it's crucial to understand the nature of pet allergies. They’re mainly caused by the proteins found in pet dander, saliva, and urine. When some people encounter these allergens, their immune system reacts, triggering symptoms such as sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, and skin irritation. Educating yourself about pet allergens will allow you to take appropriate measures to minimize exposure.
It's also important to see a doctor and get tested for allergies, as you may find you’re not actually allergic to your pet but something else instead, such as tree pollen allergens that stick to your pet’s fur.
2. Choose shorter-haired or hairless pets
There's no such thing as a truly non-allergic dog or cat,¹ but certain breeds produce fewer allergens or shed less dander than others.² So it's worth considering the breed of dog or cat that you choose based on their fur type, especially if you know in advance that you have allergies.
3. Create a pet-free zone
Designate specific areas in your home as pet-free zones, particularly your bedroom. This way, you can help limit the amount of allergens in the air and increase your chances of a good night's sleep. Keep the door closed and use vacuum cleaners and air purifiers with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in the bedroom to maintain clean air quality.
4. Keep your living space clean
Regular household cleaning helps minimize pet allergens in the air and on surfaces. Keep on top of your pet’s mess with these tips:
- Vacuum regularly with a HEPA-filtered vacuum cleaner to trap and remove pet dander effectively.
- Wash pet bedding frequently using hot water to remove allergens.
- Use microfibre or electrostatic dusting cloths for dusting, to capture allergens instead of spreading them in the air.
- Consider using allergen-proof covers for mattresses, pillows and upholstery to create a barrier against allergens.
- Clean your pet's living space, such as litter boxes or cages, in a well-ventilated area, or ask a non-allergic member of the household to handle these tasks.
Invest in a high-quality HEPA air purifier to reduce airborne allergens. Place the purifier in common areas or rooms where your pet spends most of its time. Purifiers effectively capture and trap pet dander, helping to keep your air clean and reduce the level of pollutants you breathe in. Remember to regularly clean and replace filters as instructed by the manufacturer, to maintain optimum performance.
Grooming and bathing your pet can help reduce the amount of allergens they carry. Consider the following tips:
- Brush your pet outdoors to prevent dander from settling inside your home.
- Use pet wipes or hypoallergenic shampoos to bathe your pet.
- Ask a non-allergic member of the household or a professional groomer to handle grooming tasks, if possible.
7. Maintain good personal hygiene
You can help alleviate allergic reactions by following these practices:
- Wash your hands after touching or playing with your pet.
- Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, after interacting with pets.
- Change and wash clothes immediately after prolonged exposure to pet allergens.
8. Take medication as prescribed
Consult with a healthcare professional to discuss allergy medication options. Over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops can provide temporary relief from allergy symptoms.
Living with pet allergies doesn't mean you have to give up on the joy of owning animals. By following the strategies above, you can help reduce your exposure to pet allergens, manage your symptoms, and enjoy a comfortable life alongside your beloved pets.
¹Allergy UK (2023). Pet Allergy Factsheet. Available at: https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/pet-allergy-factsheet/
²Anaphylaxis UK (2023). Allergy to Animals. Available at: https://www.anaphylaxis.org.uk/fact-sheet/allergy-to-animals/
³Blue Cross (2023). How to Cope With Pet Allergies. Available at: https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/pets/how-to-cope-with-pet-allergies
⁴American Lung Association (2023). Pet Dander. Available at: https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants/pet-dander