Stop the Sniffles: Tips for Living with Pet Allergies

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No matter how much we enjoy spending time with our pets, nothing can ruin it more than dealing with a runny nose, an itchy throat, or watery eyes. But even if you suffer from pet allergies, there are a number of measures you can take to keep them in check around the house so you can keep your pets where they should be: at home.

Pet allergies are caused by a protein found in pet dander. While it is commonly thought that pet dander comes exclusively from a pet’s fur, it is also found in their saliva and urine. Pet dander particles are airborne, which makes it easy for them to get all over your house.

Pet allergy symptoms can range from the mild (nasal congestion and sneezing, itchy throat, watery eyes) to the severe (asthma-like wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath). If you think you might be allergic to your pet, you should make absolutely certain before you begin taking steps to reduce allergens in your home. Make an appointment with an allergist and have them test you specifically for an allergy to pet dander — he or she can help you figure out if your Shih Tzu is making you sneeze, or if it’s something else.

If it turns out you are allergic to your pet, don’t fret — here are some actions you can take to keep both you and your pet happy at home.

Make your bedroom a pet-free zone

Though this may be an challenging feat to ask of some pet owners, experts recommend keeping pets out of your bedroom. With the bedding, carpet, curtains and other fabrics you may have, there is no shortage of places for pet dander to get into and stick. Unfortunately, keeping irritants out also means keeping Fido away. On the plus side, a lack of allergens (and early wake-up face-lickings) may help you sleep better at night. But if you just can’t keep pets out of room, add an anti-allergen cover to your bed to help keep dander at bay.

Invest in a HEPA filter

A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestance) filter can help to remove those tiny particles that trigger allergies from the air. While a HEPA filter can be used for the whole house, a smaller standalone filter may be more beneficial if you’re looking to focus on keeping one specific room allergen-free (like, your cat’s favorite hiding spot under the couch).

Keep it clean

Owners living with allergies should be prepared to do a little housework. In order to keep your space clean, you should regularly vacuum (using an allergen-proof vacuum bag or a vacuum with a HEPA filter), wipe down walls where your pets tend to lean against, dust, change your furnace filters, and change both your and your pet’s bedding. And if you’re up for a little remodeling, consider changing out carpeted floors for hard-surfaced flooring instead. Carpeted floors trap more allergens than wood, linoleum, or tile, and ditching the carpet may help reduce your allergies (and cleaning to-do list) significantly.

Wash up

While bathing your pet regularly does help to ease allergy symptoms, the effects of a bath only last for a day or two and aren’t quite worth the trouble. Instead, make sure to wash your hands frequently (especially after touching your pet) for continuous cleanliness. Also worth a try are anti-allergen pet wipes. Giving your pet a daily wipedown is much easier than coaxing your cat into the bathtub any day.


Many over-the-counter medications can help allergy sufferers with milder symptoms cuddle with their pet in peace. For more severe symptoms, talk to your doctor or allergist to see if a prescription medication is right for you.

Give it a shot

Allergy vaccines, also known as immunotherapy, help your body develop antibodies to protect against allergens. They can even help you develop immunity over time (lots of time). In order to build up complete immunity, it can take up to a year of weekly injections, followed by 3-5 years of monthly shots. Decide if you have enough time for these appointments before committing to this decision.

Stay away from the litter box

Pet dander is found in urine, so the litter box is a playground for allergens and should be avoided by allergy sufferers at all costs (conveniently giving you the perfect excuse to make someone else do the scooping).

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