If you’re an animal lover, there are few things worse than being allergic to them. Not being able to give a dog or cat a good scratch behind the ears without worrying about itchy eyes or a stuffy nose is pure torture!
Of course, if you suffer from pet allergies, you’re far from alone—according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, around 1/3 of Americans with allergies are allergic to dogs and cats. You might think cat and dog allergies mean you won’t be able to have a pet, but that’s not necessarily the case! Plenty of people with pet allergies still have pets in their homes.
If you notice your allergies are at their worst when you’re around your pet, there’s a good chance you’re allergic to them. That said, don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to treat your allergy symptoms. But first, let’s take a look at some of those symptoms.
There’s no shortage of symptoms that can result from pet allergies, including:
An important thing to keep in mind is these symptoms are common with other allergies, including drug, food, pollen, and mold allergies. Before you self-diagnose, you can talk to your doctor about running some allergy tests.
The easiest way to avoid the symptoms is by avoiding the animals that trigger them, but that’s not always feasible (or fun). If this isn’t an option, there are a handful of ways to go about tackling your allergies.
If you have eye allergies from cats or dogs, for example, keep a bottle of eye drops handy. Nasal sprays, meanwhile, are great for a runny or stuffy nose. If you experience both, an antihistamine that tackles multiple symptoms might be your best bet. Allergy shots are another great option for more severe allergies, especially if you want a pet of your own.
We know what you’re thinking: What about pets that don’t shed? For example, many people say certain cats, like Sphinxes, are hypoallergenic because they don’t have hair, but pet hair itself is not the true culprit when it comes to pet allergies. Since all animals produce dander, urine, and saliva, truly hypoallergenic pets don’t really exist.
Not necessarily! It really depends on how allergic you are, and what steps you’re willing and able to take to treat your symptoms. If keeping your pet allergies at bay is just a matter of daily eye drops or an antihistamine, there’s no reason not to welcome a fuzzy new member of the family into your home. As we mentioned before, more extreme symptoms might call for an allergy shot.
We definitely recommend figuring out if your allergy symptoms are treatable before you bring a pet home. You could also try fostering a pet for a month or so while you experiment with treatments, to see how your immune system stacks up against continuous exposure to the pet.
We know how important having a furry friend can be, so we asked Picnic Medical Director Dr. Amina Abdeldaim what expert advice she has for people with pet allergies who still want a dog (or cat!).
“There are two potential approaches,” Dr. Amina explains. “Hang out with a dog that’s the same breed you’d like to get and see if you have any symptoms (you’ll need to spend a good amount of time with them to tell). Or, you could see an allergist to get tested for pet allergies—at the same time, you could discuss your treatment options with them."
Pet dander can be tricky to get rid of, and even the deepest of cleans might not remove it altogether. There are steps you can take, though, to significantly reduce the amount of it in your home.
Before you arrive at a home with a pet you know you’re allergic to, take your allergy treatments, and make sure you keep them with you in case you need another dose later on. You could also request that the pet’s owner keep them in another room while you’re there, and maybe even ask them if they can remove any pet hair from any furniture you might sit on. You can do your part by washing your hands often and not touching your eyes (which are good habits to get into anyway).
You don’t have to choose between symptoms and pets! Pet allergies can be managed with a proper diagnosis and treatments. It might take a little bit of time to figure out the best regimen to keep your symptoms in check, but it’ll be well worth it!