Allergy to pets like dogs and cats is an important cause of allergies like nasal allergies, eye allergies and asthma. Since these allergens are inside our homes, these allergies are seen world over and throughout the year.
What causes an allergy to cats?
Cats produce multiple allergens causing allergy in humans. These allergens are found on the cat's dander (dead skin cells), skin and in saliva. Allergens from cats are small and lightweight. Cat’s allergens remain suspended in air for long periods of time and then finally settle on carpets, bedding, furniture, and other items in the home. In addition, pets like cats can carry dust mites and pollen in their fur and cause allergy symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergies to cats?
Symptoms of allergy to cats can include
- Symptoms of nasal allergies like sneezing, runny, itchy and stuffy nose
- Symptoms of eye allergies like red, itchy and watery eyes
- Symptoms of asthma like coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing
- Symptoms of Skin allergy like red and itchy skin where the cat has been in contact or licked.
How Do We Confirm Allergies to cats?
Not everyone with allergies and cats at home or at a relative’s place has a cat allergy. Sometimes the symptoms are obvious, but the cause of allergy might be some other allergies like pollen or dust mites. Hence, it's very important to confirm that the symptoms are due to allergy to cats. To confirm allergy to cats either or both skin prick test (SPT) or blood allergy test need to be done. Skin prick test (SPT) is the best investigation to identify and confirm allergies. Blood test using an ImmunoCap is also a good modality. Occasionally if the tests are negative but there is a strong suspicion of allergy, trying to live away from the pet for a few months to see how it affects the allergy symptoms is advised.
How Are Allergies to Cats Treated?
If you have an allergy to your pet, then the best option is to part away with the pet and find the pet a new home. It can be sometimes hard to admit that your pet is causing allergy symptoms in your child. Many people hence deny this fact. If you or your child wish to live with the pet, some steps can help to reduce the symptoms of allergy. Keep the cat out of the bedroom. Wash your hands after touching the cat. Removing wall-to-wall carpeting and upholstered furniture also helps. Using an air purifier and regular vacuuming is also useful. If the child has a severe cat allergy immunotherapy can be a long-term treatment solution.
How long does it take for cat allergies to go away?
Cat allergen has been found to remain in the house for a long time sometimes up to a year after the cat has been removed from the house. Hence it takes a few months before the symptoms start to improve.
If your child has allergies like nasal allergy, eye allergies or asthma and pets (dog or cat) at home he/she could be allergic to the pet. Do get in touch with a pediatric allergist for proper diagnosis and treatment options.