Having a pet can be extremely rewarding, they are an important part of the family. However, you might notice younger members of your family or visitors showing signs of allergies around your pet. So understanding what causes these allergic reactions and how you can help to reduce your family’s exposure to pet allergens is essential.
What is an allergic reaction?
Sometimes, our bodies fight off a perceived threat from a substance (allergen) with an allergic reaction. Common allergens include dust mites, particular food groups, tree pollen, grass pollen and animal dander (tiny particles of fur or skin). An allergic reaction occurs when an allergen enters the body either by being inhaled, swallowed, or coming into direct contact with skin.
After dust mites, the second most common cause of allergic reactions inside the home comes from our pets.
If a member of your family starts sneezing a lot, complains of an itchy runny nose, has itchy red eyes, shortness of breath or chest tightening, it’s possible they are suffering from an allergic reaction to allergens found on your pets.
Top tips to help reduce allergens in your home.
It’s very common to experience a reaction to animal fur, dander and saliva. Around 50% of asthma in children is exacerbated by cat allergens and 40% by dog allergens*. You can help reduce your family’s allergic reactions to your pets by following our simple guide:
Create Pet-Free Zones
- Don’t let your pets have the whole run of the house – if you reserve specific areas that are pet-free, for example you or your children’s bedrooms, you can provide a safe haven from itching and sneezing.
Keep Your Home Free of Dust and Pet Hair
- Dust and pet allergens are very light – just walking past a dusty table can be enough of a breeze to make these tiny particles become airborne.
- Reduce carpet and fabric upholstery where possible: Blinds rather than curtains, leather/faux leather upholstery instead of plush fabrics and wooden or laminate flooring are easier to keep free from dust and pet hair.
- Make sure your home is well ventilated, even if you just open doors and windows for an hour or so a day.
- Wash your pet’s bedding regularly, as well as any soft toys.
- If your pet has a favourite armchair or spot on an upholstered or carpeted surface, vacuum it regularly. Or place a towel or blanket where your pet likes to sleep so it can be removed and washed regularly.
Keep Pets Groomed
- Dogs should be given regular baths to maintain healthy skin and help remove excess fur. Use dog shampoo as human shampoo can be too harsh.
- Groom cats regularly to remove excess fur and promote healthy skin. It also helps to prevent hairballs, particularly in long haired breeds.
Keep Those Hands Clean!
- Use Dettol Antibacterial soap.
- Encourage children to wash their hands before eating, especially if they have been in contact with pets or their bedding.
If you or a member of your family is suffering from allergies, antihistamines or nasal sprays can be used to soothe the effects of an allergic reaction. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice.
There are so many great reasons why having a pet is good for your family – they encourage us to get outside in the fresh air, teach children responsibility and are fantastic and loving companions. But living side by side with them can create potential health problems. Just remember to follow our simple hygiene tips and you’ll help your whole family to live a happy, healthy life together.
* Source: ALLERGY UK Allergy to domestic pets. 2008. Available at: www.allergyuk.org.