Coping With Pet Allergies

Your pet is part of the family — but you've found that you're allergic. Learn how to cope if you just can't part with your pet.

By Susan G. Warner, Contributing Writer

Sniffling and sneezing? Could your pet be the cause?

Pet allergies are common and can be serious, especially if you have asthma. The only way to avoid pet allergies is to avoid the animals. But, if you can't bear to find a new home for your pet, here are some tips you can try to manage your allergies.

Some people think certain breeds are less allergic than others or that short-haired pets cause fewer allergies than long-haired animals. But, it's not a hair issue. Glands in a pet's skin produce proteins, or allergens, that stick to fur or feathers. Allergens dry as tiny particles or dander that float through the air. Allergens are also found in a pet's saliva and urine.

Allergens circulate in the air and stay on carpets and furniture for weeks or months. When a person with allergies comes in contact with a specific allergen — by breathing it in or through skin contact — it can trigger an allergic attack. Your pet may not even be there!

Reduce pet allergens

Talk to your doctor about allergies
Pet allergies often come from cats and dogs, but guinea pigs and rodents can also trigger an allergic reaction. Your doctor can test for allergies and may suggest allergy shots. The shots may improve your symptoms but can't eliminate them completely. They work by gradually desensitizing your immune system to allergens. Nose sprays and antihistamine pills may help control symptoms.

A mixture of approaches — good housecleaning and medical treatments — may help you control your allergies while still living with your pet.