Tips on Managing Cat Allergies
If you have a cat allergy, it’s not Mittens herself that makes you sneeze and snuffle, but proteins from her saliva, skin, and urine. Since she spends a good part of the day licking her coat, and the hair and skin flakes (dander) she sheds are coated with saliva. Unless you take precautions, those proteins can get all over you, leaving you miserable. Here are some tips on how to manage cat allergies.
Most importantly, try to avoid cats and don’t have a cat in your home. This could lead to a very tough decision, especially if you have a child who desperately wants a cat or a spouse who has become allergic to his or her favorite pet. While some people claim that hairless cats are hypoallergenic, there is no evidence that they or any other breed of cat will not trigger an allergic reaction.
If you can’t part with the cat in your household, leave the care (especially the litter box), feeding, and grooming to other family members. Keep the cat out of your bedroom—after all, you spend on average a third of your day there—and off the furniture. Wash your hands after touching any of the cat’s playthings or bedding. And if practical, let kitty roam outside much of the day.
Even if you don’t have a cat, lots of other people do, so enforce strategies to reduce the amount of cat dander entering your home. Start a "no shoes in the house" policy, and leave outdoor clothing as close as you can to the front door, too. Dust and clean floors regularly, and invest in a HEPA-filtered vacuum to help trap dander particles. Use HEPA filters for your ventilation systems as well. Shampoo your carpets a couple of times a year, or more if you have frequent, large gatherings.
When you visit people who live with a cat, ask if you can leave your things in a closet or other "cat-free" zone. When you get home, put your clothing in the hamper, take a shower, and wash your hair. Use a neti pot to rinse allergens from your nasal passages. These precautions remove most of the dander from your body, and more importantly, help keep it out of your bed.
Are you planning an extended visit to a cat-friendly household? Ask your hosts to keep kitty away from the room you’ll be sleeping in for a few weeks. Bring your allergy medication. Some doctors recommend starting medication a couple of weeks before you arrive at the house.
Moving into a new home or apartment? Shampoo all the carpets and clean the floors before bringing in your belongings, in case the previous owners had a cat.
Definitely ask your doctor about treatment options, especially if your allergies are severe. Standard, over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants can do the trick, or your doctor may prescribe a nasal corticosteroid spray. Allergy shots are another possibility, although their effectiveness is low. It could take years to complete a course of shots, and they are not recommended for children under 5.
You may not be able to avoid cats, and cat dander can get everywhere, but if you know how to manage cat allergies, you can greatly reduce your discomfort.
WebMD, "Cat Allergies" https://www.webmd.com/allergies/cat-allergies
PetEducation.com, "Human Allergies to Cats" https://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=0+1278&aid=144
Cat photo courtesy of morguefile.com.
Neti pot photo courtesy of istock.com.