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Allergy to pets

What is pet allergy?

This is when someone develops antibodies to a protein (allergen) in their pet.

What am I allergic to in my pet?

You can be allergic to a number of proteins in animals including their hairs, skin (dander), saliva, urine and serum albumin (in the pet’s blood).

If I am allergic to one furry animal will I be allergic to all of them?

Not necessarily but people will often have more than one allergy. It depends upon which bit of the pet you have the allergy to and if this allergen is found in other animals.

Dander is often very different between mammals. Serum albumins are present in all mammals and have similar protein structure between species. This means if you are allergic to these proteins then you will be allergic to all pets.

What symptoms do they cause?

There are many symptoms caused by pets but they usually fall into four groups.

Asthma

acute wheeze, cough and shortness of breath.

Eczema

Irritation of the skin and sometimes they will cause hives (nettle rash) on the skin that has been in contact with the pet allergen.

Rhinitis

Irritation in the nose with nasal blockage, sneezing, a runny nose and an itchy nose.

Conjunctivitis

Irritation in the eye with eye itch, eye redness and eye swelling.

What can I do if I am allergic to my pet?

  • Make your bedroom a pet free space and wash bedding in hot water (60C). Keep your pet off the furniture downstairs.
  • If possible keep your pet outside for most of the day.
  • Use a HEPA filter on your vacuum cleaner and vacuum frequently. If possible opt for wooden, tile or linoleum for flooring and clean frequently.
  • Speak to your vet about a balanced diet for your pet which can prevent skin becoming dry and excess skin shedding.
  • Wash your cat or dog regularly and make sure their bedding is washed at high temperature every week.

Do I need to get rid of my pet?

In most cases people can live with their pet as long as they stick to the rules above. However, if a person has severe symptoms or asthma and frequently becomes wheezy in contact with their pet, then it may best for the animal to be rehoused.

Is there any such thing as a hypoallergenic animal?

No, all animals have allergens but you may be able to reduce the allergen load by getting a short haired pet that will shed less hair or animals cells. However, if you are allergic to the urine, saliva or albumin then this will not stop you reacting.

My child has asthma. Can I get a pet?

10% of the population have a pet allergy but if you have asthma then it is more of a risk.

If you would like a pet it would be useful to visit houses where they have pets to see if your child reacts or have a pet on a trial basis. Be aware that you can be allergic to male dogs but not female dogs and vice versa for cats.

We have recently moved housed and the previous owners had a pet. Can this affect my child?

Yes, unfortunately cat and dog allergens can persist for up to 6 months after an animal has moved home. A deep clean may be advised if the new occupant is very allergic.

I need to visit a house where there is a pet, what can I do?

  • If your child has asthma then make sure they don’t miss any of their regular medication before you visit. Make sure you take their reliever inhaler with you.
  • Take a non sedative antihistamine before your visit and during the visit if needed.
  • Ask the family to make sure the animal hasn’t been in the room your child will sleep in.
  • If possible apply the rest of the rules as above.

My child is only allergic to cats and comes home from school sneezing every day. What is the cause?

Cat allergens are very sticky and hence can be transferred onto a classmates or teachers clothes from a cat at home.

Further information, help and support

Allergy nurses: call 0114 226 7872 or email scn-tr.allergy@nhs.net

Allergy secretaries: call 0114 271 7585 (an answer machine is available out of hours)

Dermatology nurses: call 0114 271 7580

Respiratory nurses: call 0114 271 7414

Asthma UK: call 01322 619898 or visit www.asthma.org.uk

The Anaphylaxis Campaign: call 01252 542029 or visit www.anaphylaxis.or.uk

The British Allergy Foundation: call 020 8303 8525 or visit www.allergyuk.org

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Disclaimer

Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: ALG8

Resource Type: Article

NHS

Western Bank
Sheffield
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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