According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey, “Americans own approximately 73 million dogs (and) 90 million cats” (Pet Ownership). Fortunately, it seems that owning a pet is good for your health, because “studies show that people who own pets live longer and are active longer than those who don’t” (Want to Live Longer?). However, many people are allergic to pets. “Cat or dog allergy occurs in approximately 15% of the population” (Allergies to Animals). This means that even if you are not allergic to pets, a family member or friend may very well be allergic.
Experts agree that there are several steps that can be taken to reduce the effects of pet allergies. I have found that modifying these steps by adding a few simple actions can improve your efforts to reduce these effects. I am allergic to both cats and dogs. However, I choose to share my home with six cats and one dog. I use the following steps myself and have found that they make all the difference in the world when it comes to reducing my allergic symptoms.
Groom Your Pet Regularly
Experts advise that you groom your pet on a regular basis, at least weekly. The Mayo Clinic recommends asking a non-allergic family member or friend to help with the grooming (Pet Allergies). However, I have found that this is not always practical or possible. Therefore, I have discovered that the following works better for me. I groom my cats and dog at least once per week. Immediately after grooming, I take a shower. This helps in two ways. First, it removes the clothes I was wearing while grooming, which will contain pet hair and dander. Second, showering removes any pet hair and dander from my hands and body. Since I have showered after grooming, I no longer run the risk of accidentally causing pet hair or dander to get into my eyes, nose, or mouth.
Clean Your Home and Furniture Regularly
The next step is to be sure to clean your home and furniture regularly. Pet hair and dander get everywhere, so you must perform a thorough cleaning at least once per week. You do not want pet hair and dander to accumulate in the home.
Carpeted Areas – Vacuum carpeted areas. Although more research must be conducted to determine the effectiveness of HEPA vacuum bags (Pet Allergy), you may want to use one anyway. It might help and it certainly can’t hurt.
Chairs, Sofas and Other Upholstered Furniture – Using the vacuum cleaner attachment, vacuum all chairs, sofas, and other upholstered furniture. After vacuuming, use a sticky lint roller to remove any residue that was not picked up by the vacuum.
Hard Floor Surfaces – Do not use a broom or dust mop on hard floor surfaces, because this tends to “stir up” the allergens. Instead, use the vacuum cleaner attachment to thoroughly vacuum hard floor surfaces and baseboards. After vacuuming, mop the entire area with the appropriate cleaning solution.
Tables, Desks, and Other Wood Furniture – Tables, desks, and other wood furniture should be dusted using pre-moistened furniture polish wipes intended for this purpose. This works best, because using a spray furniture polish product will cause the dust, hair, and dander to fly up into the air, potentially aggravating allergy symptoms. Pledge makes furniture polish wipes and store brand or generic wipes are also available in certain areas.
Countertops and Electronics – Clean countertops and electronics with pre-moistened cleaning wipes intended for this purpose. You do not want to use spray cleaners, because the action of spraying will stir up the allergens. Clorox and Endust make wipes for this purpose and store brand or generic wipes are also available in certain areas.
Keep Pets out of the Bedroom
Experts recommend keeping pets out of the bedroom (Allergies to Animals). However, this is not always practical. For example, in my home, closing the bedroom door results in the cats scratching at it all night long, which prevents my husband and me from sleeping. If, like me, you must allow your pets into your bedroom, there are a few things you can do to reduce allergy symptoms.
Wash Bedding Frequently – All bedding, including sheets, pillowcases, blankets, comforters, and mattress pads should be washed frequently. Some people do this weekly, while others do it more often. I wash all bedding every two to three days. Use hot water and use a laundry detergent that is free of perfumes and dyes. My personal preference is All ® Free Clear Allergen Fighter. It is advertised as “the #1 Dermatologist and Allergist recommended detergent” (The Products) and I have had good results with this product.
Keep Pillows and Pillowcases Free of Pet Hair and Dander – You want to keep your pillows and pillowcases free of pet hair and dander, because this surface is in contact with your face, and you do not want pet hair or dander near your eyes, nose, or mouth. Upon getting out of bed, my husband and I both put our pillows on the shelf in our closet. My daughter, who is not allergic, just makes sure that her pillow is completely covered by her sheets and comforter. Do whatever works for you, just keep those pillows and pillowcases dander-free.
Sharing your home with pets can be a rewarding and health-promoting experience. Following these steps will help to ensure that family members and friends with pet allergies are comfortable in your home. Reducing the effects of pet allergies in your home is a relatively simple and worthwhile effort.
“Allergies to Animals.” The Partnership for Animal Welfare website. URL: http://www.paw-rescue.org/allergies.html
“Pet Allergy”. Mayo Clinic website. URL: http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/pet-allergy/DS00859/DSECTION=all&METHOD=print
“Pet Ownership.” Pet Place website. URL: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/how-many-pets-are-in-the-us/page1.aspx
“The Products.” All website. URL: http://www.all-laundry.com/products.asp
“Want to Live Longer?” Ideal Bite website. URL: http://www.idealbite.com/tiplibrary/archives/live_longer_recycle_a_pet/