Allergy to animal hair - the allergy to pets

Allergy to animal hair - the allergy to pets

Basics

One type of allergy that is particularly troublesome for animal lovers and dog or cat owners is the so-called pet or animal hair allergy. This is a hypersensitivity reaction to various tiny body secretions of our pets.

The confusing name suggests that you are allergic only to the hair of the animal, but this is not the case, because you are also allergic to particles such as saliva, sebum, sweat or urine, which are secreted by the animals.

These secretions from our animals contain protein molecules to which a sufferer can have an allergic reaction. Since these proteins are mainly found on the hair of the animals and are also spread via this, the name animal hair allergy is not entirely wrong.

Especially if the allergens get into the respiratory tract or into the eyes, there is usually a strong allergic reaction - this can express itself in conjunctivitis, hay fever or asthmatic attacks.

Allergies to typical pets such as cats, guinea pigs and rabbits are the most common, but allergies to other rodents (rats, mice hamsters) and to birds, horses and cattle are also known. With dogs it depends mostly on the breed whether one reacts allergically or not. Fortunately, allergies against dogs are rather rare.

Causes

Allergy sufferers react with mostly strong allergic symptoms to the allergens of the animals, whereas non-allergy sufferers remain completely unaffected when they come into contact with the allergens.

The strong effects in allergy sufferers are mainly due to the fact that the allergens come into direct contact with the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or bronchial tubes. Here they can immediately cause an allergic reaction. The body produces numerous antibodies in this phase. These defence substances of the immune system attack the supposed pathogens. The allergic reaction causes the body to secrete histamines, which are an important substance in the development of allergic clinical pictures.

These histamines are responsible for reddening of the skin, swelling, narrowing of the airways and increased mucus production - all the symptoms that occur when you have an allergic reaction.

As with all other allergies, the likelihood of a hereditary allergy is the highest.

Symptoms

With an animal hair allergy, the symptoms always occur when you come into contact with the allergens. With a pet allergy, you do not even have to be in direct contact with an animal. If you meet a friend, acquaintance or work colleague who has a cat at home, for example, this person usually wears hairs and thus allergic pathogens on their clothing.

Just breathing them in can cause an allergic reaction. So if you have a severe allergy, you may even want to avoid acquaintances who have a pet at home that you are allergic to. Cats are particularly dangerous allergen carriers, as they leave their hair in large numbers on clothing and utensils.

The symptoms that can occur are quite varied:

Mild symptoms include:

  • Sneezing, sneezing attacks, a runny or stuffy nose (the reaction is hay fever-like.
  • Watery, red eyes that burn and itch (conjunctivitis may occur).

More severe symptoms can be grouped under:

  • Shortness of breath and asthmatic attacks, with constriction of the airways.

Less frequently, the following symptoms occur:

  • Inflammation of the skin, forming eczema. These itchy and oozing rashes burn and worsen even more when you come into contact with the allergens.
  • Itchy rashes on the skin known as hives.

Diagnosis

The doctor can already determine what kind of allergy it is based on the medical history, especially if it is an animal hair allergy, since the effects and the causes are usually obvious. Nevertheless, it is important to get clarification in order to be able to take targeted action against the allergy.

The doctor's prognosis can be supported by different types of diagnosis.

Prick Test

With the prick test one can get clarity very quickly. In this test procedure, a solution containing the suspected allergen is applied to the forearm. By scratching the skin with a small knife, the solution can spread directly under the skin, so that a reaction can be seen after only 15 minutes. This reaction of the skin can be recognized by redness and itching on the treated skin area. A reaction indicates an allergy.

Blood test

The blood test is another method to get certainty in the question of an allergy. In this test, a blood sample is taken from the patient and this is then examined in the laboratory.

Provocation test

The provocation test is mainly used when the two upper test methods have not been able to clearly determine what the patient is allergic to. In this test, the patient is confronted with the allergens. This can lead to very strong reactions, which is why a doctor is always present for this type of test.

Therapy

As with any other allergy, pet allergy raises the question of whether you should be treated and how you can be treated.

Especially if you have a pet at home yourself, you would naturally hate to have to part with it.

In serious situations, however, there is often unfortunately no other option than to part with the animal. In this case, one should also remove the objects with which the animal has frequently come into contact.

In general, it must be said that it is advisable to separate from the animal even in the case of a weaker allergy.

The reason for this is that an allergy can quickly develop into serious asthma.

If you still do not want to part with your pet, then you should observe the following rules of conduct.

  • The bedroom must be declared a pet-free zone. At night, our body simply must have the opportunity to relax without coming into too much contact with the allergen.
  • Bed linen, towels and house clothes should be changed as often as possible so that the allergens do not multiply.
  • After petting the animal, do not touch the eyes or nose - these are the most sensitive regions of our body that react immediately to allergens.
  • Wash your hands as often as possible after contact with the animal.
  • You should clean your home as often as possible with a vacuum cleaner equipped with a microfilter. You should also damp clean furniture and floors regularly.
  • Air your home as often as possible.
  • Products made from animal hair should be avoided at all costs.
  • Avoid too close physical contact with animals.
  • Use brushes and combs to remove animal hair; if possible, have someone else do the brushing.
  • Clean the fur with pet shampoo as often as possible.

Of course, you can also resort to numerous medications to curb the allergy, these include: Eye drops and nose drops, cromoglicic acid, antihistamines, cortisone and beta-sympathomimetics.

Hyposensitization should only be used if the allergy is severe. If the hyposensitization is successful, the allergy can disappear completely and the patient is free of symptoms.

However, this method takes up to three years. The allergen is fed to the body's immune system at regular intervals so that the body can get used to the allergenic substances.

Prevent

You can't protect yourself from getting an allergy, but it is relatively easy to find out if you are allergic to certain animals.

A quick and easy way to find out is to visit the shelter or pet store a few times before getting an animal. If you decide to get an animal, touch it and spend a little time around it. If you are faced with an allergic reaction, the case is relatively clear. Seek medical attention immediately and make sure you are covered. In most cases, discomfort does not occur immediately, but rather a few hours after contact.

If you already suffer from hay fever or other allergies, it is better to avoid pets from the outset. The risk is simply too high to develop an animal hair allergy.

If you are affected, then it is best to avoid contact with animals altogether.

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