Your eyes itch, your nose is running, youre coughing and there's a drip down your throat sounds like you just got home! But if youre one of the estimated 10 percent of the U.S. population that is allergic to pets, you dont have to suffer to live under the same roof as your BFF (best furry friend), say experts. (Nor do you need to give him away, in most cases.)
Instead, work on stopping the spread of allergens throughout your space, says Shirlee Kalstone, a former pet-allergy sufferer and author of Allergic to Pets? The Breakthrough Guide to Living With the Animals You Love
. These allergy-causing particles are not the animals hair; the guilty parties are proteins in his saliva and urine, plus oil-gland secretions and dander (dead skin flakes). Here, a few simple strategies to help you and your family breathe easier.
Bathe your pet weekly with a hypo-allergenic shampoo formulated for dogs and cats, and youll reduce the allergens on his fur by 84 percent, reports the Humane Society of the United States. Just before you lather up Baxter, get a nonallergic family member to comb him. (If youre stuck with the job, cover your nose and mouth with a mask, available from mail-order allergy-product-supply companies like
.com"" target=""_blank"">natallergy.com.) Make sure you brush the fur right down to the skin so that you remove dander as well as any loose hair thats contaminated with saliva or other allergens.
If you want to sidestep the struggle of a bath (not a bad idea in the case of cats), you can get almost-as-effective results by wiping down your pet weekly with a cleansing solution that contains ingredients that deactivate allergens, says Kalstone. (One to try: Allerpet, $9, allergybegone.com
.) Put the animal on top of a towel in your lap, then use a damp washcloth to apply the solution, being careful not to get it in his eyes.
Out, Out, Spot!
Since you spend about a third of your day in the bedroom, keep allergens in this area to a minimum. The easiest tactic? Make the room off-limits to pets by keeping your bedroom door closed, recommends Clifford Bassett, M.D., an allergist with the Long Island College Hospital, in New York.
If your allergy symptoms are serious enough to interfere with daily activities, Dr. Bassett recommends consulting your doctor, who may prescribe antihistamines such as Zyrtec and Clarinex, antiallergy eyedrops like Elestat and Optivar, or nasal steroids like Nasonex and Rhinocort for nasal stuffiness and congestion. Your doc may also recommend allergy shots, which are first given one or two times a week, and then once a month. Some 70 to 80 percent of patients experience lasting improvement of symptoms.