What happens when your best furry friend is making you or a loved one sneeze? General wisdom is that the best way to manage a pet allergy is to avoid exposure to the animals—but if your pet is an integral part of your family, that may not be an option.
While constant exposure to an allergen isn’t ideal, there are ways to reduce the number of allergens in your environment and alleviate your symptoms so that you can keep your furry companion. Find out about air purifiers and other allergy mitigation strategies in this article!
Pet allergies explained
Our immune systems are tasked with finding and eliminating foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. People with allergies have immune systems that overreact to proteins in substances that are usually harmless, such as milk, peanuts and pet dander. If you have a pet allergy, reactions can include sneezing, stuffy nose, itchy eyes, hives and asthma attacks.
The truth about hypoallergenic pets
A common misconception is that people who are allergic to animals react to their fur or hair. Hairless, short-haired and curly-haired cats and dogs are often marketed as hypoallergenic because they shed less. However, people with pet allergies are actually reacting to proteins in the animal’s urine, saliva or dander (dead skin cells). Pet fur carries particles of dander and other allergens, so animals that shed less may provoke fewer allergy symptoms, but the allergens are still present.
Dander: a tenacious allergen
Pet dander tends to be microscopic and quite buoyant, meaning that it can stay suspended in the air for long periods of time. The edges of the dander are jagged and stick easily to upholstery, bedding, clothing and walls. Even after the cat or dog has left the house, the dander can remain for months on furniture and in carpets.
Air purifiers for pet allergies
An air purifier that uses a filter to remove airborne particles from the environment can significantly lessen the amount of pet allergens that get inhaled. Air purifiers with HEPA filters are particularly effective. They are able to trap 99.97% of 0.3 micron particles and capture larger and smaller particles even more effectively.
The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences all recommend using a HEPA air purifier to decrease the number of airborne allergens in the home and alleviate allergy symptoms. Using an air purifier can help allergy sufferers breathe easier and sleep better than they would otherwise!
Note that air purifiers in a home with pets may need their filter replaced more frequently than those in pet-free homes due to the amount of animal hair and dander that can clog the filter.
Other ways to mitigate pet allergies
The best way to manage a cat or dog allergy is to reduce exposure by minimizing contact with the animals as much as possible. That being said, sometimes removing the allergen from your environment is not an option. In such cases, there are steps you can take to mitigate your allergy symptoms:
- Create one or more pet-free zones in the house. Pets should be kept out of the bedroom in particular because you spend such a significant amount of time there. Keep the bedroom door closed, and clean the room carefully and frequently. The bedroom is also a perfect place to install a residential air purifier!
- Use allergy-proof covers for mattresses and pillows. These covers act as a barrier for allergens so that you don’t inhale them while sleeping.
- Keep pets off the furniture. Dander sticks more easily to fabric and other soft surfaces than walls and floors.
- Eliminate carpeting wherever possible. Carpet fabric traps allergen particles and releases them when disturbed. It’s also difficult to clean adequately.
- Bathe pets weekly. This helps reduce the amount of dander they shed.
Medical help for allergies
Before deciding on how to manage your pet allergies, it’s important to consult an allergist and get tested to determine what your allergens are and get professional medical recommendations on how to proceed. While air purifiers can make a big difference when it comes to pet allergy symptoms, they should not be considered an adequate replacement for medical treatment—rather, they should be used in conjunction with medical treatment and other mitigation strategies for best results.
Air purifiers: an investment in your health
If you can’t bear to say goodbye to your precious pet, using an air purifier to clean the air you breathe can go a long way towards managing your allergy symptoms and improving your quality of life.
There’s no doubt that purchasing an air purifier is an investment in your health and well-being. HEPA filters are very effective at trapping pet dander and other airborne allergens, and air purifiers with UV technology destroy the mold spores, viruses and bacteria that are also present in the air and can pose significant health issues.