What is a pet hair allergy?
People who are allergic to pet hair do not react to the hair itself. They are triggered by protein components in the saliva, sweat, sebum or urine of the animals. These particles adhere to the animal’s hair or feathers and are released into the environment. Allergic people inhale them and react accordingly, e.g. by irritation of the mucous membranes and symptoms in the nose, eyes and bronchi. In addition, direct contact with animals often triggers allergic reactions.
Are you allergic to pets? What does this mean for you?
If your pet suddenly causes allergic reactions in you or other members of the family, it is initially a shock. Eventually, the question arises as to whether living with your four-legged friend is possible. This makes it all the more important to think about this – preferably, of course, before you take a dog or cat into your home. Or before you buy a hamster cage.
Which animals often trigger allergic reactions?
Allergies to cats are particularly common. This is because of the good airborne properties of allergens they emit. It is particularly unpleasant, because cats bring the allergenic particles through their owners’ clothes, even in places where they are not present: for example in classrooms, public transport, cinemas or vacation apartments. Even without direct contact with a cat, cat-allergic people should therefore expect allergic reactions in all places.
There are no allergy-free breeds – a dog is a dog
Dogs are another pet that often cause allergic reactions – although in most cases, the symptoms are less pronounced than in people allergic to cat hair. What many don’t know: The level of allergy is independent of breed. It is also not true that long-haired animals cause more problems for allergy sufferers than short-haired animals. The degree of allergy depends solely on the animal in question. All breeds of dogs have the same allergens in principle. Only the amount varies. It differs between females and males and from one animal to another. You can therefore be allergic to one terrier and not to another.
Guinea pigs: small but strong
Relatively strong reactions occur with guinea pig allergies – and quite frequently. These are triggered by a protein molecule in the animal’s urine. Allergies to horses or rabbits are somewhat rarer. Birds occupy a special position: In them, bird mites are added to the allergens in feathers and droppings as a source of allergens.
Typical symptoms of an animal allergy
Just like pollen or house dust allergy, pet hair allergy manifests itself as :
- red eyes
- itchy, red eyes, itchy eyes and nose
- a head cold
Most of the time, these problems appear immediately after contact with the animal allergen. Petting the animal also causes the allergens to swirl around. But the mere presence of the animal can be enough to cause allergy sufferers to become ill. This is because there are always allergens in the air.
Tips for people with pet hair allergies
Are you allergic to dog or cat hair? In this case, the most important thing is to avoid contact with the allergen in question.
What you should also be aware of:
- If you or other family members are highly sensitive to allergies, it’s best to give up a pet altogether.
- If contact with the pet is unavoidable, remove the hair from your clothes. (Clean or wash them after contact).
- If a pet lives in your home, regularly clean all upholstered furniture, curtains, carpets and mattresses – and of course clothes. This will limit your exposure to allergens.
- Don’t let your pet in the bedroom – and certainly not in the bed!
- Avoid textiles made of angora, alpaca, sheep or camel hair.
- Stop smoking.
Are you allergic to animal hair? Get tested!
To determine if there is an allergy to pet hair, what are called prick tests are usually performed. To confirm a suspected allergy, a blood test may also be performed. In some cases, provocation tests may also be helpful. In this case, the doctor places allergens directly on the mucous membranes of the nose or bronchi.
How can an allergy to pet hair be treated?
In case of acute allergy symptoms, you can treat your pet hair allergy with allergy medications such as nose drops or tablets. Antihistamines usually provide quick relief.
In addition, you should think about how to control your allergy symptoms over the long term. There are methods to attack your allergy at its root and, ideally, make it disappear completely: for example, allergy immunotherapy (hyposensitization or specific immunotherapy). In this case, the immune system is gradually accustomed to the relevant allergens through the controlled administration of appropriate doses of allergens. Over time, the immune cells react less strongly – or not at all – to them.
Allergy immunotherapy is useful when it is impossible to avoid contact with the allergen in question or when you or a family member has a particularly severe allergy to pet hair.