Asthma and Pet Allergies

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Asthma affects almost 24 million Americans, and allergies can be a big trigger, especially for people with allergic asthma, the most common type of asthma.

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Prevalence of pet allergies

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, as many as 30 percent of people with allergies have pet allergies. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies and have even been linked to chronic asthma.

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Symptoms of pet allergies

Some pet-allergy symptoms for asthmatics include sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, skin irritation, and swelling if licked or scratched.

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Diagnosing pet allergies

Sometimes pet allergies are diagnosed by a history of symptoms, but the most accurate way to diagnose the allergy is through the use of blood tests or skin testing. These tests are carried out most frequently at an allergists office.

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What about hypoallergenic pets?

Many people believe they can get a hypoallergenic pet. This is due to a false belief that low shedding animals or hairless animals don’t cause allergic reactions. Unfortunately, any animal can cause an allergic reaction, because they all produce dander, saliva, and feces. In other words, there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet.

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Preventing exposure to pet allergens when you already have a pet

Just diagnosed with a pet allergy but don’t want to get rid of your fur baby? Keeping your pet outdoors and out of the bedroom, removing your carpet or cleaning it regularly, and using a HEPA vacuum cleaner and air filters can help limit exposure. So can washing your pet regularly. You may also want to talk with your allergist about immunotherapy.

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Preventing exposure in severe allergies

If you have severe allergies, then you may have to avoid any contact with pets and other animals. This means avoiding homes with pets and having family members and friends who have touched a pet wash their hands and change their clothing before they hang out with you.

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Don't forget to have a plan in place

No matter how careful you are, it is likely that accidental exposure to animals will occur. Be sure to talk with your doctor and include animal exposure in your Asthma Action Plan. If you find that limiting exposure to pets causes issues or isn’t possible, it may be time to discuss options like immunotherapy and biologic medications with your physician.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.