Are you allergic to your cat?

Cat allergy? What exactly is it?

We would like to clear up a misunderstanding here: cat allergy is often called “cat hair allergy”, like other allergies to animal hair. This term is misleading. Cat hair is not the real cause of the allergy, although it plays a central role in the spread of allergens. The allergic reaction is triggered by allergens found in the cat’s saliva, tears and skin flakes.

As the cat licks itself, these allergens are also naturally spread by falling cat hair. The focus is on an allergen that scientists call Fel d 1. This is often found in saliva, sebaceous glands and skin cells, as well as in the blood serum and urine of cats. In addition, there are 18 other feline allergens identified to date.

A major problem with cat allergies is that the allergens disperse incredibly quickly and persistently.

They stick to walls, furniture and other objects. Sometimes they can even be detected in apartments where no cat has been for years. Even in buses, movie theaters, schools, and homes that have never housed animals, surprising amounts of cat allergens have been found in the dust present – enough to trigger cat allergy symptoms in sensitized individuals. The main allergen, Fel d 1, in particular, has an exceptional suspension capacity. It remains airborne for a long time, even if the cat from which it came has not been around for a long time.

What are the symptoms of a cat allergy?

The first allergic reactions can occur within minutes of contact with cat allergens. Many symptoms of a cat allergy resemble the typical signs of other inhalant allergies. Like pollen or dust mite allergens, cat allergens are airborne. This means that they are also absorbed primarily through the air we breathe.

Typical symptoms of a cat allergy

  • Reddened eyes,
  • burning and watery eyes,
  • allergic rhinitis,
  • Irritation from sneezing and coughing,
  • Scratching in the throat,
  • Swelling, itching and redness of the skin,
  • difficulty concentrating and sleeping,
  • breathing difficulties and allergic asthma.

If cold-like symptoms persist or recur frequently over an extended period of time, you should consider whether a cat allergy might be the cause.

How can I treat my cat allergy?

If you want to move quickly, you can control the acute allergy symptoms of your cat allergy with anti-allergy medications such as antihistamines. In some cases, cortisone preparations are also a good option.

If you want to treat the real cause of your cat allergy, only desensitization (allergy immunotherapy) is currently an option. With allergy immunotherapy, you can ideally achieve the disappearance of your allergic symptoms after a treatment period of three to five years.

In principle, people who are allergic to cats should avoid contact with them. If you own a cat yourself, you should part with it and find a new home. Avoidance of allergens (deficiency) is the basis for successful treatment of cat allergy. And that’s not all: due to the specific properties of cat allergens, direct avoidance alone is not enough. It would be better to avoid indirect contact with cats as well – at least to the extent that this can be controlled. For example, when cat owners visit, they bring their cat’s allergens with them.

Regular vacuuming removes pet hair.

Worn textiles are a haven for cat allergens. That’s why you should wash your clothes regularly in any case. You should also regularly clean carpets and upholstery to remove the allergens they contain.

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