Pet Allergies, Our First Family and You!

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Our soon-to-be First Family faces a personal struggle that millions of other American families face every day_ Their daughter suffers from allergies.

An estimated 10-15 percent of people with allergies in the U.S. are allergic to dogs or cats. And about two million people who have cat allergies apparently live with at least one cat in their households. For many pet allergy sufferers, the importance of keeping their pet outweighs the difficulties present due to their allergies.

The major pet allergens are produced in glands in the skin and can easily get into the animal's fur, hair and saliva as well. These chemicals can cause an allergic reaction if an individual is allergen-sensitive. There are a variety of allergy symptoms including itchiness of the eyes, nose and throat, as well cough, asthma and hives.

If you have pet allergies, consider the following proven survival tips:

  • Create an "allergy free" bedroom (where we spend about one third of each day).
  • Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner in the bedroom.
  • Purchase allergen mattress and pillow covers which may help to prevent pet hair brought into the bedroom from getting into the bedding.
  • Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and/or a double-bag filter to better catch pet allergens.
  • Some studies indicate weekly bathing of a pet may substantially reduce the level of pet allergens in the fur (speak with your vet about any specific suggestions on best ways to do this).
  • Learn which prescription or OTC allergy medications are helpful if you have pet-allergic symptoms.
  • Allergy injections for pet allergies can be helpful in reducing symptoms if avoidance measures are not successful.
  • One study found that it's easier to transfer pet allergens form person-to-person when wearing wool rather than cotton.
  • Washable wall covering, wood and linoleum flooring is easier to clean and remove adherent pet allergens than other surfaces.
  • Ask a non-allergic friend or family member when animal grooming is required. It is best to do this on non-carpeted flooring.
  • Avoid the area around the cat's litter box if you suffer with cat allergies.
  • Wash your hands after handling a pet to keep from transferring the allergens to your eyes and nose.

Check out more tips about pet allergies from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology at their consumer friendly website at:

Dr. Clifford W. Bassett is an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Long Island College Hospital and on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine. He is the current vice chair for public education committee of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. No information in this blog is intended as medical advice to any reader or intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.