There are many reasons that pets are great for older people. They provide love, companionship, routine, protection and, in the case of most dogs, exercise and a reason for getting out of the house. Yet, what if you’re allergic to pets? About an equal number – one in eight Americans – are allergic to either cats or dogs (or both), according to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. If you have allergies, does that mean you can’t have a fluffy friend? Not necessarily!
Here are some things to consider when thinking about adopting a pet:
The allergic reaction is triggered by the proteins in the animal’s saliva and skin, which of course all dogs and cats have. However, some breeds that shed less – think terriers and poodles – may be less likely to trigger reactions.
Just because your neighbor’s Persian or Pug makes your eyes tear doesn’t mean you’re going to have the same reaction to all cats or dogs of that breed. It’s very individual in which dogs or cats will set off your allergies. The best way to find out is to spend some time at a shelter or breeder with a dog or cat you’re interested in, rather than ruling out a particular type or latching onto a breed you think will be ok.
You may think you have a pet allergy if you start sneezing or wheezing, but an outdoor dog or cat might just be bringing into the house pollens or mold spores, which are causing your flare-ups. That’s why visiting an allergist and getting tested will answer your questions.
If you’ve got mild allergies and think you can manage, you need to be proactive about scrubbing your house down. Invest in a HEPA air purifier, which will help trap dander, as well as a HEPA vacuum (the regular kind often just blows allergens back out). Make bedrooms a pet-free zone to minimize your exposure to dander. Avoid heavy drapes and carpets, which trap allergens. Instead, opt for blinds and hardwood floors you can easily wipe down.
The dog hair itself doesn’t cause a reaction. It’s the skin cells that trigger allergies, also known as dander, that bind to the hair. So having less fur around can make a difference. In addition, washing and brushing your pet regularly can help dogs and cats lose some of the allergen-containing dander that builds up in the fur.
Is adopting a pet the right choice for you and your family. There is a lot of responsibility and work necessary for any pet, so make sure to do plenty of research before bringing one home.