It will seem horribly unfair to any child who suffers with allergies that they cannot have a pet or must loose one whom they have grown attached to. Is there a way to deal with pet allergies which may lessen or even eliminate the suffering for adults and children with allergies?
WHAT ARE YOU ALLERGIC TO?
By establishing whether the animal is actually the cause of an allergy is certainly the best starting point. However, that can be a difficult task if you already have an animal since the allergens are extremely difficult to remove entirely.
If an existing pet can be removed and the home thoroughly cleaned (carpets, walls, furniture etc.) you MAY be able to verify the allergy in several months. Obviously that is not the easiest solution.
Having the child stay with a friend or relative for a week (as long as there are no pets in the home) may show an improvement that might indicate an allergy to the family pet.
A visit to the doctor can confirm an allergy with a simple test. The tests vary, but some can be mildly uncomfortable and would probably not be considered if the allergy symptoms were mild.
Some allergy symptoms are compounded by exposure to several allergens. By identifying other sources and removing them you may find the reaction to pets is lessened and not a barrier to enjoying their presence.
CREATING AN ALLERGY FRIENDLY HOME
There are several steps you can take to reduce the build up of allergens and bring relief to allergy sufferers.
The first recommendation is to have hardwood or other smooth surface for your flooring. Carpets hold far more of the particles that cause allergies and hard flooring makes it easy to clean.
Leather furniture is also ideal for homes with pet allergies. For the same reason as hard flooring is more suitable than carpet, leather holds far less allergens than fabric.
Keep a seat for the allergy sufferer that pets are not allowed to sit on. Also be certain that animals do not sleep on the beds or enter the bedrooms of allergy sufferers. Consider keeping the sleeping area of the home as a pet-free zone.
MAKING YOUR PET AS HYPO-ALLERGENIC AS POSSIBLE
There are even things you can do with your pet to reduce the allergic effects of having them in your home.
Frequent grooming and bathing with a mild soap to prevent over drying will reduce the dander that is one of the main causes of pet allergies. It would be recommended that someone without allergies take on this task.
Washing hands after playing with a pet and avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands will also help. Since some individuals are also allergic to the saliva of pets it would be sensible to not allow your pet to lick you.
In the case of more serious allergies or asthma it may be best that no pet share the home. For older children or adults it may be possible to find a medication or treatment which makes the situation tolerable if they prefer to keep the pet despite the allergy.
The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to medically diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Consult a health care practitioner before beginning any health care program.
Emily Clark is editor at Lifestyle Health News and Medical Health News where you can find the most up-to-date advice and information on many medical, health and lifestyle topics.]]>
Allergies are on the increase – a third of the population believe that they suffer from allergies, and even though some of these people may be mistaken, everyone agrees that eczema, asthma, hay fever, irritable bowel syndrome, etc. are now more and more common. So, what has happened?
It is often unclear why a person has a tendency to be allergic or intolerant to a range of substances. Medical practitioners talk about ‘atopic individuals’ – atopic means ‘out of place’. To the unknowing this sounds like a medical diagnosis, but in fact all it means is: You have a tendency to have allergies; you may have several different symptoms caused by your allergic reactions; this often runs in families; we don’t know why. Describing someone as an atopic individual is not saying anything the person does not already know about themself!
Allergy problems undoubtedly do run in families, so there may be a genetic component, although the exact mechanism is not clearly understood. Some small genetic mutation can cause the immune system to be triggered more easily, so that family members sharing this mutation will all have a tendency to allergic reactions, although not necessarily to the same substances, but this does not explain the rise in the incidence of allergies in recent years.
Severe Virus Infections
A severe virus infection can lead to damage to the immune system, so that the individual is more likely to develop allergies in the future. Again, although this may explain why someone has allergies, the incidence of virus infections is not on the increase.
So we have to look elsewhere to explain the rise, and there are several completely different possibilities.
One allergy theory now being proposed is that the lack of the proper enemies (liver fluke, tapeworms, etc.) has led to an idle immune system finding inappropriate work in allergic reactions. There are many antibodies produced in the body to protect it against invasion by harmful organisms. IgE antibodies deal effectively and quickly with the extreme danger of infection by large parasites, such as tapeworms. Parasites’ effect on health can be devastating, so over the years individuals with efficient IgE mechanisms have lived to reproduce and pass on their genes at a greater rate than people with a less efficient IgE mechanism. The IgE antibodies are also involved in allergic and hypersensitivity reactions, so people with these inherited efficient IgE mechanisms are more likely to suffer allergy problems than people who have inherited a less efficient system. This super-charged immune system was a plus for an asthma sufferer’s distant ancestors inhabiting a world with many life-threatening parasites, but now leads to a ‘trigger-happy’ immune system firing off inappropriately.
Other practitioners (notably Hulda Clark in ‘Cure For All Diseases’) take the opposite view, and see many allergy symptoms as being a reaction to an infestation of parasites.
The obsession with the danger of ‘germs’ is thought to have led to an increase in allergies. Much of this obsession with cleanliness seems to be driven by the media and advertising. Headlines about ‘killer bugs’, and advertisements that claim a product kills even more germs have led many people to buy more and more products to wipe out these dangerous enemies. A view now gaining ground among many researchers and some doctors is that a certain level of dirt is good for us, particularly during infancy and early childhood when the immune system is maturing.
T-helper cells in the immune system recognise foreign antigens and then secrete substances to activate other cells to fight the invader. In pregnancy the T-helper cells that attack invaders directly without producing antibodies (Th1 cells) are less active, as these could lead the mother’s system to reject the foetus. This means that the T-helper cells that are responsible for antibody reactions (Th2 cells) are more prominent. These are the ones that are involved in allergic reactions. The new baby’s immune system has the same emphasis as the mother’s had during pregnancy. It is believed that the exposure of the very young to some level of ‘dirt’ is beneficial in that it helps to rebalance the immune system to emphasise the T-helper cells that are not involved in the allergy process.
In an excellent article (‘New Scientist’ July 18th 1998) Garry Hamilton talks about ‘the gentler side of germs’. If the young are not exposed to ‘dirt’, the immune system does not go through this rebalancing process, and a tendency to allergy can result. Linda Gamblin in ‘The Allergy Bible’ cites several medical research projects, which support the idea of allowing children to be exposed to dirt and minor infections to help protect against allergies.
Our children are now being vaccinated against a bigger and bigger range of diseases. While some of these are serious, many are mild illnesses that were once considered part of a normal childhood. Many alternative practitioners consider that these childhood illnesses help to prime the immune system so that it is better able to cope with a whole range of illnesses later in life. This view is not accepted by most of the medical profession, and indeed it would be difficult to prove. However, there is some evidence that vaccination alters the ratio of T-helper cells and T-suppresser cells. This would be likely to have an effect on the vaccinated child’s susceptibility to allergy reactions. It is also known that most vaccines stimulate the branch of the immune system that is concerned with the more extreme immune reactions to invaders such as parasites (‘New Scientist’ July 18th 1998).
Ubiquitous Presence Of Some Foods
Before the advent of freezers and airfreight most people ate local foods in season. Now most fruit and vegetables are available all year round, so that our systems are exposed to the same foods continually without respite.
There has been a dramatic increase in people experiencing soya allergy, since soya has become a common ingredient in many processed foods. In Europe and North America rice allergy is relatively uncommon, whereas in Asia where it is consumed more frequently it is much more common.
Developments that make modern life more comfortable have also led to an increase in allergies. With the advent of air conditioning, central heating and wall-to-wall carpeting house dust mites and moulds such as alternaria have an ideal environment in which to thrive. Modern offices with sealed windows mean that everyone is exposed to the perfumes worn by other people. The increasing use of plastics, formaldehyde, benzene etc. have led to all of us being exposed to an amazing variety of chemicals.
Contamination By Environmental Pollutants
The chemicals in diesel fumes are known to damage the outer membranes of pollens. This means that when the pollen is breathed in, the pollen proteins are immediately in much closer contact with the delicate membranes in the mouth, nose and lungs than they would be if the pollen had not been damaged in this way.
It has now also been suggested that the immune system is reacting to some harmless substances because they have been contaminated by environmental pollution: the immune system does not recognise the food, for example, if it has molecules from tyre rubber attached to it. These molecules sometimes appear similar to enzymes produced by parasites and so the immune system attacks the ‘parasite’.
Although more and more evidence is accumulating for a role for environmental pollutants, this does not explain why New Zealand, which is relatively unpolluted, has one of the highest incidences of asthma in the world.
An increase in electro-magnetic pollution has run parallel with the increase in allergies. The scientific jury is still out on the danger of mobile phones, power lines, etc., but many people are becoming more concerned about our constant exposure. People who are sensitive to computers, etc. often also show many symptoms typical of allergic individuals. In some cases correcting this sensitivity to electro-magnetic sources, results in all or most of the adverse reactions disappearing. (I recommend health kinesiology for this.)
The pace of life is quickening all the time: modern technology gives us more possibilities and many of us want to experience as many of these as we can. A survey found that half of the 950 young people in their 20’s interviewed said that they would feel a failure if they did not own a home by 26, were not married by 27 and not both rich and parents by 29. Many of the interviewees said they were prepared to sacrifice a healthy diet and way of life to achieve this. These expectations and pressures are not conducive to long-term health and can also lead to stress and allergies. Pre-packaged, processed foods eaten in front of the television, too much alcohol, too little fresh air and exercise all take their toll.
Sometimes particular traumatic events can explain a particular allergy. One of my clients was allergic to wool and tea. She told me that when she was a small child she had pulled a cup of hot tea on to herself. At the time she was wearing a wool sweater, and the tea soaked into the sweater and burnt her very badly.
It is now well known that bottle-fed babies are more likely to be prone to allergy problems than breast-fed ones. Sudden or early weaning can contribute to the problem too.
Sadly the modern diet may be abundant in calories, but there is more and more evidence that it is low in some important nutrients. People are eating more pre-processed foods, which may be nutritionally compromised.
Soil is becoming depleted of some minerals, because they have long been taken up by plants grown in the soil. If the mineral is not in the soil, it cannot be in the plant, and so it is not available in the foods we eat either.
It is unlikely that there is one simple answer as to why people are allergic, intolerant or sensitive in general or to particular substances. Research is still being carried out in this fascinating area. Fortunately with the tools that are available it is not necessary to know why someone has allergy problems in order to be able to detect and correct them.
Jane Thurnell-Read: Jane Thurnell-Read is an author and researcher on health, allergies and stress. She has written a book on allergies -“Allergy A to Z” which is available from Amazon, and all good book stores (ISBN 0954243927). It is also availble from her web site http://www.healthandgoodness.com]]>
Having a cat allergy came as something of a surprise to me. Growing up, I had many pets – cats, dogs and birds. My family were animal lovers and pets abounded, so being in contact with animals was a daily occurance. No one ever seemed to suffer from a cat allergy or any kind of animal allergy for that matter.
After my teens and my last pet had died, I wasn’t in a position to take on another pet for many years. Then, eleven years ago, a friend of a cousin was looking for a home for their last remaining kitten. And so it was that Kira came into my life. This was a cat with attitude (and still is!) and we bonded pretty much immediately. While she was still a kitten, I’d put her in the kitchen overnight with a little cat bed to sleep in and the litter box close by.
As she grew older, I started letting her sleep in the bedroom. It’s surprising how relaxing a cat’s purring can be in wee small hours.
A little over a year later, when down with the vet getting some supplies, I heard that there was a kitten that needed a home or it would have to be put to sleep. And so, Fritz came home with me that day.
Unfortuately, Kira was less than impressed with this interloper and I had to keep the two separated for several days before an uneasy truce ensued.
They’re an odd pair – Kira has attitude, Fritz is much more companionable; what you’d call a “gentle soul”. She’s still the Queen around the house and occasionally puts Fritz in his place with a right-hook to the face when she feels the need to assert her authority.
As Fritz matured, he also was allowed into the bedroom. Both he and Kira would sleep there during the day and night, as was their want.
We all know that cats are the greatest creature-comfort-seeking animals on the planet and a comfy place to catnap is one of their major concerns. But the place your cat chooses to snooze may not be your first choice. While I didn’t mind the cats sleeping on the bed, I did take exception to Fritz’s tendency to charge in from the garden and sleep in a basket of warm, freshly dried laundry straight from the dryer.
The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine recently conducted a poll of pet-owners on the sleeping habits of their pets and found that 60% of them sleep in bed with one of the family. Where cats are concerned, there are two potential problems here: one is that, somehow, they manage to take up 90% of the bed and the other has to do with allergies.
I found I had a mild cat allergy when I started producing weird wheezing noises any time I was doing something strenuous. Coughing eased it for a few minutes but it would always return. I figured I’d developed a mild form of asthma, probably due to bad air quality and pollution, so I went to the doctor to have it checked out. After listening to my lungs he asked me one question: “Do you have a cat?”
Well, yes, I did. Two in fact.
“You’re allergic to your cats”, he intoned.
Then he asked if the cats slept in the bedroom. Of course they did.
“There’s your real problem”, he said. “What you’re allergic to is the dander produced by your cats. When a cat sleeps on your bed, the dander ends up in the sheets and the duvet and you breathe it in deeply at night when you’re asleep. Not good. That’s what causes your wheeziness. Stop the cats sleeping in your bedroom for two or three weeks and see if that eases your symptoms. If not, you’ll probably need to use an inhaler for the rest of your life.”
Ok, that last sentence kinda hit me between the eyes. Much as I love my two furballs, I didn’t want to suffer a long-lasting health problem that could possibly be avoided.
So why is dander such a problem? It’s the layer of dead skin that’s rich in animal protein, which is continuously shed by animals. Sebaceous (oil producing) glands in the skin also produce these protein allergens. Male cats have, on average, greater amounts of sebaceous secretions and therefore are more allergenic than female or neutered male cats. This is a result of testosterone hormone effects on sebaceous glands.
So, with that information and the prospect of an enduring health problem, I banned my cats from the bedroom, threw out the duvet (on the advice of the doctor), bought a new one and changed everything on the bed (including getting new pillows). I didn’t get too much sleep the first few nights with the cats meowing and scratching on the door to get in but they got used to the idea, finally. After three weeks in a cat free bedroom, my wheeziness had all but disappeared. The cats haven’t been allowed back in since.
Should you find yourself with a similar cat allergy problem, banning the cat from your bedroom is one possible course of action. Alternatively, you can get your cat his own cat bed and put that somewhere out of harm’s way (yours and the cat’s).
Since finding out I was mildly allergic to my cats, I’ve spoken to other cat owners about it and quite a number also suffer some mild form of allergic reaction – sneezing, wheezing, watering eyes, blocked sinuses and so on. Owners appear to become at least somewhat immune to their own cats insofar as the symptoms are not as pronounced as they become when they’re around other people’s cats.
But, having said that, none of us would ever part with our feline companions and would exhort others to adopt a cat as a pet, as the benefits far outweigh any minor inconveniences.
Animal dander allergy can significantly contribute to respiratory problems involving the sinuses, nasal passages, and eyes, as well as causing upper respiratory tract problems that can result in asthma (as in my case). These problems can significantly diminish your quality of life despite various medical treatments. For some people, it can be even more serious, leading to recurrent acute asthmatic attacks that can be life threatening, requiring emergency room visits and hospitalizations. The good news is that most people who are allergic to their pets can keep their symptoms under control if they know the facts.
About the Author
Gary Nugent has been a life-long animal lover, especially of cats and is the webmaster of http://www.just-pet-cats.com – a site that helps you make the best choices to keep your cat healthy, happy and long-lived. Information about cats in general, health issues, behavior patterns and their history. And, not to forget about you…there are a few things on the site to keep cat owners amused as well.]]>
Sneezing? Wheezing? Nose runny, eyes itchy? You may be suffering from the common cold. But if the condition has been hanging on for two weeks, or more, you may be suffering from an allergy as opposed to a cold. Your doctor may be the only one who can conclude if you are experiencing an allergic reaction.
There are many types of allergies but being allergic to animals is quite common. What happens if you discover you are susceptible to pet allergies?
Does this mean that your faithful dog, loving cat or beautiful rabbit has to go?
Some people that have allergies can continue to live with their pet. It depends upon the severity of your allergies and whether or not you are prepared to make some changes and live within a few rules. If your allergic reaction to your pet is on the moderate side, you may be able to reduce your suffering by reducing the amount of animal allergens you come in contact with.
Up to 15% of the population are allergic to domestic animals and approximately one third of those continue to live with their pet. For many the pleasure of owning a pet outweighs the burden and discomfort of pet allergies.
If your allergies make life miserable for you, but are non life threatening, you may be able to reduce the symptoms by taking the following actions.
If you suffer from allergies, and share your living space with an animal, it is extremely important to keep dust and dust mites to a minimum in your home. The microscopic skin particles that are cast off by dogs, cats, hamsters and other pets are known as dander, and can quickly spread throughout your home and cause allergic reactions for anyone who has a pet allergy.
Never sleep with your pet. You would be breathing in dander for the whole time that you are asleep. Best make your bedroom a no go area for your pets, keep your bedroom door closed and don’t allow your pet in. Although you cannot completely prevent dander from getting into your bedroom, keeping the animal out will greatly reduce the level of pet allergen in that room. Buy a low cost vinyl encasing for your mattress, this will keep down the dander that resides within your bed. Wash blankets, sheets and pillow cases frequently.
Where you can replace your carpets. A non porous flooring such as hardwood, tile, vinyl or linoleum will contain far less allergen than carpeting. Where you do have carpets have them cleaned regularly and vacuum frequently – and use a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum filter.
Consider replacing fabric furniture covered for leather or vinyl furniture and replacing your curtains with plastic blinds, an expense but doing so will help reduce the effect of your pet allergies.
Bath your pet frequently, at least once a week and you will greatly diminish the amount of dander residing in your pet’s fur (by up to 80%). Contrary to popular belief cats can be bathed, get someone to help and ask your veterinarian for advice on how to do this properly.
Damp wipe all surfaces once per week, pet allergens are airborne and will stick to most anything. Don’t forget to wipe down your pet’s toys they will be harboring allergens.
Washing off or changing the filter in your heating cooling system will help. Consider purchasing a HEPA air cleaner, they can reduce allergens in the home and increase comfort for those who suffer with pet allergies.
Talk to your doctor about your commitment to keeping your pet. If he/she considers that your pet allergy is not life threatening he/she may understand your reluctance to part with your animal companion. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be prescribed and may help you, together with the steps above, to continue to enjoy the company of your cat, dog, hamster or rabbit.
About The Author
If you have a pet related web site and you wish to reproduce the above article you are welcome to do so, provided the article is reproduced in its entirety, including this resource box and live link to http://www.best-cat-art.com.
Cat art posters, art prints, cat calendars and cat collectibles. Great cat gifts for yourself or your cat loving friends.]]>