Pet allergies are present in more than 10% of the population. This means that more than 1 out of every ten people is allergic to cats and/or dogs. Although 1/10 doesn't seem like much, it still means that over 32 million people in the US alone have pet allergies. That's a lot of people! That number becomes particularly significant when we think not only of ourselves, but also how many people enter our homes regularly. These people may include friends, family, boyfriends, girlfriends, children, repairmen, etc.
Clearly, pet allergies affect a lot of people, but what's the big deal?
What are the symptoms of pet allergies?
Pet allergies can manifest themselves through any number of various symptoms. Most commonly, these include itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, itchy or sore throat, coughing, nasal congestion, wheezing, rash, or hives. The severity of these symptoms can range from mild to severe. In fact, severe pet allergies may even cause airways to close up completely, requiring immediate medical attention.
What causes pet allergies?
Pets are cuddly and cute, but they also produce microscopic byproducts that can cause allergies in susceptible individuals. They can even cause allergies in people who have never before experienced pet allergies.
Pet dander is one of the most common sources of pet allergies. Many people erroneously believe that pet dander is the hair that is often shed by animals. However, dander is actually microscopic flakes of skin that are shed in normal skin replacement.
The saliva of cats and dogs is another common pet allergen. It is often deposited into the dander, which then covers the surfaces inside a home, or becomes airborne.
Animal urine causes allergies in many individuals as well. Like saliva, the urine permeates into the dander and spreads throughout the home or living space.
These allergens are breathed in and enter the mucous membranes of the nose and lungs, causing irritation and inflammation in susceptible people. Direct contact with the skin can also cause problems in some individuals.
What's the best way to manage pet allergies?
Pet allergens and dander tend to build up over time in porous surfaces, such as carpet, sofas, and pillows. Although pet allergens can be managed on smooth surfaces, more often than not, sweeping and vacuuming only stir up the microscopic particles, making them airborne and thus more easily breathed in.
Air purifiers of various types can be effective in mitigating the effects of pet allergens, but those equipped with HEPA filters seem to be the most effective. As the microscopic particles shed by pets can last in the home for months, if not years, a filter system featuring HEPA technology more adequately reduces the redistribution of allergens into the air.