When pet allergies trigger asthma, removing pets from the home and taking asthma medication bring maximum relief, say Japanese doctors.
Toshihiro Shirai, MD, and colleagues report their findings in the May issue of Chest. They studied 20 adults (average age: 36) with pet-allergic asthma at Japan's Fujinomiya City General Hospital.
The asthma patients all had pets (cats, dogs, hamsters, and ferrets) that they had been advised to give up because of asthma. Half of the patients had obeyed; the other half insisted on keeping their pets.
Better Asthma Results Without Pets
A significantly bigger improvement in asthma was seen in those who removed pets from their homes and took asthma drugs compared with those who took asthma drugs but kept their pets.
Pet removal also allowed patients to reduce doses of inhaled corticosteroids, the most effective treatment available to maintain control of asthma. They were also able to reduce the frequency of follow-up visits, the study shows.
Those who kept their pets did have a small improvement in their asthma from medications. "This suggests that adequate treatment with inhaled corticosteroids may mask the worsening of asthmatic symptoms induced by domestic animals," write researchers.
All asthma drugs were taken at optimal doses.
It's understandable to want to keep pets. Could extra cleanliness help?
The doctors didn't gather data on that. They say other studies have shown that air cleaners and pet washing have been proposed as alternative ways to lower pet allergens in the home.
However, "very few studies have assessed the usefulness of air cleaners, which is controversial," they write.
Because the patients decided whether or not to give up their pets, it's possible that the results might have been biased, say the doctors. Perhaps pet removal also prompted more cleaning, curbing another common asthma cause — dust mites, they say. Both groups had a high rate of sensitization to dust mites, a major trigger of asthma and allergies.
That doesn't change the study's bottom line. "We believe that removal of pets from homes should be recommended as the first choice to reduce symptoms," write Shirai and colleagues.
According to the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology, there are a number of ways to reduce expose to pet allergens:
— Avoid hugging and kissing pets.
— Wash your hands after handling or touching a pet to avoid spreading dander, which may trigger allergies.
— Wash pets weekly; this may decrease the amount of dander.
— Those who have an allergic component to their asthma may want to speak with their doctors about allergy shots.
SOURCES: Shirai, T. Chest, May 2005; vol 127: pp 1565-1571. News release, American College of Chest Physicians. American Academy of Allergy and Immunology.