Sneezing, shortness of breath and watery eyes may all be signs that Fluffy, Fido or even Tweety are giving you more than companionship and unconditional love. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, an estimated 10% of people are allergic to household pets. You are not alone.
Pets are a major source of indoor allergens. Pet dander, made up of tiny flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds and other animals with fur or feathers, can cause reactions in people with sensitivities. Animal skin is not the only source of pet-related allergy triggers or allergens. One of the most common pet allergens is a protein found in cat saliva (Fel d 1). This protein enters the air on small particles, cat hair and skin. Because the protein is so small, it can stay airborne for hours and can enter deep into your lungs, triggering asthmatic symptoms for those with sensitivities.
Indoor air quality
Pet allergens may be airborne in homes that do not have pets and can linger for up to 6 months after pets are no longer present. Two large studies in the United States highlighted that upwards of 99.7% of American homes detected the presence of the Fel d 1 protein in the dust of sofas, carpets and beds in homes, regardless of whether cats were present in the home.
Five steps you can take to help bring relief:
- Clean fabric surfaces such as upholstery and carpets often. This helps to remove dander and the sticky proteins that cause the allergic reactions. Use a HEPA vacuum and even a steam cleaner to loosen surface dirt. Always make sure to check the manufacturer’s directions on what surfaces can be safely cleaned in this manner.
- Clean hard surfaces (floors, counters, walls) often, preferably with non-toxic cleaners as household cleaners can also add chemicals to the indoor air.
- Use a HEPA air purifier with UV sterilization to capture airborne particles. For example, TruSens air purifiers capture particles such as pet dander and Fel-d 1 proteins as small as 0.3 microns. The ultraviolet rays ensure that life sustaining proteins of cells captured by the HEPA filter are killed off.
- Replace HEPA filters of your purifier, HVAC system and even the cabin filter for your car at recommended intervals.
- Keep pets out of bedrooms. Since so much of your time is spent there, making sure bedrooms are off-limits to your furry friends is a great line of defense.