Pet allergies refer to the body’s allergic reaction to animal proteins that may be present in the saliva, skin cells or urine. In most cases, this kind of allergy is triggered by exposure to pet dander. Generally, any animal with fur like dogs, horses, cats and rodents can cause an allergic reaction. There are several treatments available, including immunotherapy (allergy shots or drops) to help those who are pet allergic live happily with their pets.
Symptoms of pet allergies
Pet allergies present several symptoms that include the following:
- Runny nose
- Itchy, watery or red eyes
- Postnasal drip
- Itchy nose, throat and roof of mouth
- Nasal congestion
- Facial pressure and pain
- Swollen, blue colored skin under the eyes
Although rare, you may also experience chest pain or tightness, difficulty breathing, audible wheezing or whistling when exhaling and trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath due to allergic asthma. Some individuals may also experience skin symptoms including eczema, itchy skin and red patches.
Risk Factors for Pet Allergies
While any person can experience pet allergies, people who have asthma are more likely to experience this allergy. However, some studies have found that children exposed to pets at an early age often have better resistance to allergies as well as upper respiratory diseases than those who are not exposed to pets in the first two years of life.
Pet Allergy Diagnosis and Tests
Allergists often diagnose pet allergies based using a skin test that consists of purified allergen extracts as well as extracts that have animal protein placed on the skin usually at the forearm or upper back. Skin testing takes approximately 20 to 30 minutes. The doctor makes observations on any signs of a reaction. Some of the most common signs include redness and itchy bumps. A blood test may also be performed for specific antibodies that cause allergies as well as establish your sensitivity to the allergen.
Treatment and Management
The best way to control pet allergies is by avoiding contact with the allergy-causing animals. Pet allergies can be treated by medications that include antihistamines, corticosteroids, decongestants, cromolyn sodium and leukotriene modifiers.
Other treatments that may be recommended for allergies arising from contact with pets include nasal irrigation to help flush out mucus and immunotherapy (allergy shots or sublingual drops). In summary, pet allergies can be serious if not managed or treated therefore ensure you see a doctor for appropriate medication and precautionary measures.