How To Deal With Cat Allergy
Allergies are a growing menace in everybodyâ€™s life today. In the United States of America, more than half the population (54.6%) suffer from allergies. It is sixth in the list of chronic diseases in America as far as spending on the disease is concerned. It is very rare that one is cured of allergies. It is at best managed and prevented.
If you have a furry four-legged friend at home and you are suffering from allergies, chances are that he is the cause of your misery. 10-15% of the population suffers from pet allergy with
being twice as common.
There are five known allergens obtained from cats. The triggers are mostly derived from their saliva and sebaceous glands. The allergens are basically glycoproteins. The two major allergens are Fel d 1, a secretoglobin and Fel d 4, a lipocalin. The other minor allergens are Fel d 2, an albumin, Fel d 3, a cystatin and antibodies known as IgA. These allergens are also deposited in the cat dander and can be found in urine, saliva, skin and anal sebaceous glands.
Mechanism behind the allergy caused by cats
Allergies are basically an auto immune response of the body to certain proteins, in this case the glycoproteins mentioned above. Some individuals have a hypersensitive immune system and react to proteins as if they were some bacteria or virus meant to cause harm. The immune system has certain regulatory T cells. The function of the T cells is to suppress the immune system and prevent it from reacting to these harmless antigens or proteins. The reaction of the immune system to these proteins causes an imbalance in the regulatory T cells. These T cells fail to prevent the overactive immune system from manifesting adverse reactions.
Besides this, in response to the proteins, the immune system produces a force of antibodies to fight the allergen. These antibodies are called the Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies. They react and bind with the proteins and causes the mast cells to release histamine. Histamine is the chemical which causes the adverse physical reactions like itching, inflammation, breathlessness etc. It dilates the blood vessels and causes the walls of the blood vessels to become permeable enabling leakage of fluids. This results in irritating nerve endings and causes superficial skin reactions.
Symptoms of Cat Allergy
The symptoms from the said allergy are as follows:
- Red, itchy and watery eyes.
- Nasal congestion.
- Runny nose and constant irritation of the nasal passage.
- Uncontrolled sneezing.
- Nasal drip at the back of the throat.
- Itchy throat and coughing.
- Shortness of breath or wheezing.
- Angioedema or swelling in body parts.
- Red, itchy and inflamed skin as in hives or urticaria.
- In rare situations, anaphylaxis can occur. A sudden congestion, drop in blood pressure, wheezing, confusion and loss of consciousness can happen.
- Symptoms worsen on being directly exposed to the animal.
Why is the allergy caused by cats the most prevalent among all pet allergies?
The release of the said allergens by cats is hormonal in nature. These allergens are discharged in large amounts by male cats which are not neutered. The dander or flakes of dried skin are constantly airborne and enters the body as it is inhaled. They are sticky and can be present from any previous exposure to cats long after the actual cats are gone. They are extremely small sized particles and can easily enter deep into the lungs through the airways. Cat dander is one of the foremost allergens as far as asthma is concerned.
How to deal with cat allergy?
As in the case of any allergy, prevention is the best possible way it can be managed. Even though the said allergy is hard to manage, the following steps will prove useful.
Keep the cats off your bed. If you get a respite from the allergic symptoms it could be a very small price to pay.
Make sure that the cat stays away from your room. The bedroom should be kept unexposed as much as possible.
Do not pet them often. Wear a mask while petting them. It is hard as certain emotions are involved in this case. But it is necessary to save you the discomfort.
Make sure your cat is neutered. Female cats produce less allergen than the males.
You could also try keeping a hypoallergenic breed like that of the siberian cat.
Wash your hands after petting the cat. Refrain from rubbing your eyes after petting the animal.
It is essential to give the cat a bath everyday. Use a wet wipe from time to time to ensure that less dander gets air borne.Brush your cat outside the living area with a face mask on.
Buy a good HEPA(high efficiency particulate air) enabled air purifier device, which keeps the air clean from any kind of allergens. Make sure you change the filters on time.
Vacuum clean your house as often as you can. Again, use a HEPA enabled vacuum cleaner. Rugs and carpets are the most vulnerable source of the allergens. Steam cleaning the carpet and upholstery at regular intervals is the best policy.
If the above steps donâ€™t work and you are still feeling miserable, try confining your cat in a space away to minimize exposure.
If the previous step also does not work, you may have to send away the cat with a heavy heart.
Apart from the above preventive steps, you can try getting allergy shots. This therapy involves being injected with small amounts of the allergen progressively so that immunological tolerance sets in and the immune system stops reacting.