Living with pets and allergies (part 2)

Keeping those allergens at bay!

Ok, so you already have a furry family member, and that little bundle of joy also causes you to sneeze and rub your eyes.  What do you do?  There are many steps you can take to reduce the level of allergens in your home.  I have developed a routine that helps keep my allergies in check.  My routine includes vacuuming every day with my Dyson vacuum cleaner and dusting once a week.  Once a week, I give the dogs a bath, wash all of my bedding in hot water, and spray my mattress, mattress pad, down comforter, and pillows with AllerSafe spray.  I also spray my living room furniture and dog beds with AllerSafe spray about once a week.  Below are some further ideas to help you reduce the level of pet allergens in your home.

Prevention

  • Don’t let your pets into your bedroom– This is not something that I am capable of, but it is sound advice to keep your pets out of your bedroom.  Though I realize that I would be able to sleep and breath much more easily without a puppy sleeping by my face, a cat sleeping on my arm, and a dog sleeping on the floor beside my bed, I just can’t bring myself to kick them out!  And anyway, being licked awake by an exuberant puppy is well worth the misery of a stuffy nose.
  • Don’t let your pets sleep in bed with you- If you can’t keep them out of your room, maybe you can keep them off of your bed?  I certainly can’t, but it isn’t a bad idea if your allergies are bad enough!
  • Keep pets of furniture- Same idea as keeping your pets off of your bed.  Again, something I will never be capable of.
  • Get rid of carpet- Carpet is a terrible thing for allergy sufferers.  It holds tons of pet hair, dander, dust mites, and other allergens.  If you own your home, consider replacing carpet with hardwood or ceramic tile.  If you rent, just try to keep your carpets as clean as possible (vacuum with a HEPA vacuum cleaner daily). 
  • Avoid curtains or clean curtains frequently in hot water- Curtains hold pet hair and dander, so avoiding curtains is a good idea.  I no longer use curtains in the bedroom, though I still have them in other rooms of the house.  When we had them in the bedroom, moving the curtains always resulted in clouds of pet hair.  Cleaning them regularly was way too much hassle for me, so I decided they had to go.

Pet Care

  • Keep you animals in good health–  Keep your pets in good health.  A high quality food and plenty of play time will go a long way in reducing the amount of fur your pets shed.
  • Dietary supplements for pets– Some dietary supplements can help reduce shedding.  I have never tried any of these, so I can’t speak from experience, but they might be worth a shot if your pet sheds a great deal. Consult your veterinarian for the best supplements for your pet and your situation
  • Bathe your pet weekly– I try to give my dogs a bath once a week to reduce dander and to clean off other allergens that have accumulated in their fur.  I use a very mild hypoallergenic shampoo and I sometimes apply olive oil afterwards so that their skin doesn’t dry out.
  • Groom your pet– It is also important to groom your pets regularly.  The Furminator is AMAZING at removing loose fur.  I am always amazed by it.  I highly recommend using the furminator outdoors, so that all that pet hair doesn’t just end up somewhere else in your home.  I also try to have my longer haired dog’s hair cut every few months.  I generally take her someplace to be shaved, but this can be done at home, as well.  Pet stores sell several kinds of scissors and shavers designed specifically for pet grooming.
  • Allergen reducing products on pets- There are several different brands of sprays, lotions, and shampoos available to reduce pet dander and other allergens.  I will list some of these products in my next post.

Cleaning

  • Vacuum frequently– Pet owners with allergies should definitely own a high quality vacuum with a HEPA filter.  I own a dyson and it sucks up so much fur, it’s unbelievable.  Make sure to vacuum not only the floor, but also pet beds, stairs, under and behind furniture, etc.  Pet hair can get anywhere.  I even have to vacuum walls and ceilings on occasion.
  • Invest in air purifiers– A high quality air purifier in each room will definitely help your allergies.  If you cannot put one in every room, at least put one in the bedroom.
  • Dust regularly–  Dust frequently to reduce the allergen levels in the air.  I usually dust first, and then vacuum once the stirred up dust has had time to settle.
  • Wash pet bedding in hot water– I try to wash all of our dog beds once a month.
  • Allergen barriers on sheets- We have allergen barrier covers on our mattress and pillows.  I am hoping to get one for our down comforter in the near future.  These covers keep allergens such as pet dander and dust mites from getting into your mattresses and pillows. They also make sure that any allergens that are already inside, stay inside.  I will list some of these products in my next post, as well.
  • Wash sheets in hot water– I try to be diligent about washing all of my bedding in hot water once a week.  There are also a few detergents that claim to kill allergens in cold water, but I have not tried any of them, yet.
  • Change sheets regularly– If you cannot wash your sheets once a week, at least change them once a week.  You spend so much time in bed, that it makes sense to keep it as free of pet allergens as possible.
  • AllerSafe– This is a product that I tried recently.  Allersafe is a product line that claims to kill allergens on contact. I purchased the Allersafe Dustroy Spray and I did a test:  I did not wash my sheets for two weeks.  I had a great deal of difficulty breathing by the end of the two weeks.  Instead of washing my sheets, I sprayed them all with allersafe.  The next morning, I woke up breathing!  I have to say though, that the spray burned a little when it got on my skin, and that makes me a little nervous.  There are several sprays that claim to have the same results and I may try another one soon, to see if I can avoid the burning…

Other

  • Allergy medicines– If you try all of this and you are still having difficulty, you can always consult your doctor.  There are many different allergy medications out there, these days.  Maybe there is one for you.
  • Allergy shots– Also, if your allergies are really bad, there are allergy shots that your doctor can give you.  My husband, for example, is deathly allergic to horses.  We hope to have horses one day, however, so he is considering monthly shots for his horse allergies.
  • Talk to your vet– Your vet can also point you in the direction of various methods for controlling pet allergies in your home.

Our pets bring so much joy and also have such positive effects on our health and well being. Studies have shown that pet owners live longer and have lower blood pressure.  Pets can also help us battle depression, stress, and loneliness.  They are a joy to wake up to and they love us unconditionally.   If you are struggling with allergies, consider all of the benefits that your pet also provides!  I hope that these tips can help you live a more comfortable life with your furry family member.

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Living with pets and allergies (part 1)

Speaking as an individual with pretty severe pet allergies, with a husband who has even more severe pet allergies, I understand the role that allergens play in pet ownership.  Stuffy noses, headaches, itchy eyes- these are the less fun aspects of having pets.  Nevertheless, we carry on.  Our pets are a part of the family, and no matter how uncomfortable they might unwittingly make us, they are not going anywhere.  They know it, and we know it.  So what can we do to lessen the discomfort?  Happily, there are many ways to reduce the allergens in your home.  Now, I want to clearly state that I am not a doctor, nor have I conducted any scientific studies regarding the advice that I will be providing.  I am simply a person with allergies who chooses to live on ten acres with 8 feral cats, 15 chickens, 2 indoor dogs, 2 indoor rabbits, and 1 indoor cat.  There are many days that I wake up, completely unable to breath through my nose.  But when my puppy jumps on my face to celebrate my waking up, the fact that I can’t breath just doesn’t seem to matter.

Managing allergens is not necessarily an easy task, and the amount of work involved will depend upon you and your household.  How severe are your allergies?  How many pets do you have?  What kind of pets do you have?  Do you have children or babies in the home?  The answers to these questions will influence how much work you have to do to manage the pet-related allergens in your air.  Obviously more severe allergies, more pets, more allergen prone pets, and children and babies will increase the measures that you will want to take in reducing allergens.  In this article, I will discuss the steps that my husband and I have taken as well as some steps that I plan on taking in the near future.  Hopefully, if you follow some or all of these suggestions you will find that you wake up, able to breath, more often!  (However, if your allergies are life-threatening, please consult your doctor and proceed from there.)

Prevention

The first steps involve prevention.  If you do not have a pet, but are thinking of getting one, please consider your allergies before making a decision.  Many people get an animal, find that they are too allergic, and place the animal in a different home- or worse yet, a shelter.   If you may be severely allergic to some animals or you have young children in the home who are prone to severe allergies or asthma, your doctor can perform allergy tests to determine what animals you or your family members are allergic to.  You may want to make a list of the animals you are considering and then have the doctor test for allergies to those specific animals.  Additionally, if you have a friend or family member who owns an animal that you are considering, ask if you and your family can play with the animal, and see how everyone responds.

If you are not so severely allergic that you feel you need to be tested, you may simply want to get a pet that is generally low in allergens. Generally, reptiles and fish are safe bets.  There are also several dog breeds that are supposedly hypoallergenic, and cat breeds that are considered safer for allergy sufferers.  However, I would still recommend interacting with a specific dog or cat breed multiple times, to be certain that it will not cause a severe reaction.  **Even those dogs bred to be hypoallergenic can cause allergic responses in some people. **

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Dogs considered better choices for allergy sufferers:

Airedale Terrier

Basenji

Bedlington Terrier

Bouvier des Flandres

Cairn Terrier

Chihuahua

Chinese Crested (Powder Puff and Hairless varieties)

Cockapoo

Coton De Tulear

Italian Greyhound

Labradoodle

Maltese

Malti-Poo

Old English Sheepdog

Poodle (and most Poodle mixes such as Labradoodle, Malti-Poo etc.)

Schnauzer (all sizes)

Yorkshire Terrier

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A few cat breeds are considered safer for individuals with cat allergies.  But, once again, I strongly recommend interacting with a particular breed multiple times to reduce the chances of adopting an animal that you may not be able to keep.

Cat breeds that are considered safer for allergy sufferers:

Siberian

Russian Blue

Sphynx

LaPerm

Cornish Rex

Devon Rex

It is important to note that people are not often allergic to an animal’s hair.  They are more often allergic to the animal’s dander and/or saliva.  Purchasing a breed that has no hair or that does not shed will not necessarily guarantee freedom from allergies.

Part two of this article will discuss what steps you can take if you already have a pet in your home.

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