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Studies have confi rmed that early childhood exposure to cats, dogs, and other animals may
lower the risk of developing allergic reactions later in life.
about pet allergies
According to The Humane Society,
62 percent of American households
have at least one pet. Yet, an
estimated 31 million Americans are
allergic to animals, including up to
30 percent of those who have asthma.
For these people, congestion, sneezing,
runny nose, and other allergic
symptoms occur whenever they are
exposed to common household pets.
It helps to understand how pets
can trigger allergies and what steps
can help protect you. Below are six
common misconceptions about pet allergies.
By knowing the truth about
these myths, you can take action to
live comfortably with the pets in your
Myth: it’s only pet hair —
especially cat hair — that
causes allergies to fl are up.
Not true. Pet hair is a nuisance and
causes allergies, as it contains saliva
or other pet proteins. Allergic reactions
to pets are actually caused by
pet proteins contained in pet dander
such as microscopic skin fl akes, and
also in saliva and urine. Overactive
immune systems in those with allergies
attack these otherwise harmless
Animals with more fur are more
likely to carry other allergens such as
pet dander and dust, according to the
American Lung Association. If you
have a pet, not only do you need to handle
pet hair carefully, you also need to
clean household dust carefully, as it
may contain pet dander that can trigger
Myth: Continuous exposure
to animals will eventually
desensitize you to them.
Not only is this not true, but in
some cases, the opposite is true. If you
have a confi rmed allergy to animals,
whether you are a child or adult, it
usually will not get better through increasing
exposure. In fact, it may get
worse. That’s according to the Australasian
Society of Clinical Immunology
However, studies have confi rmed
that early childhood exposure to cats,
dogs, and other animals may lower the
risk of developing allergic reactions
later in life. In one study of 8,000 children,
researchers found that children
continuously exposed to cats from the
time they were 1 year old were 67 percent
less likely than others to develop
Myth: If you just get the
right breed, you won’t have
Not true. All cat and dog breeds
produce dander. However, some
breeds are believed to be better for
allergy sufferers than other breeds.
Typically, the best breeds are those
that shed the least fur and-or are the
most frequently bathed. Also, smaller
dogs produce less saliva than do bigger
dogs. The American Kennel Club
recommends breeds that produce the
least dander for allergy sufferers.
Those breeds include poodles, terriers,
schnauzers, Bichon Frises, and
Myth: Small animals are not
a problem for allergies.
Wrong. Hamsters, guinea pigs,
birds, and other warm-blooded mammals
can also trigger asthma and allergies
in people with allergies to
animal dander, according to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency.
Birds are also a major problem for
many allergy sufferers, as birds release
dander into the air through activities
such as cleaning their feathers,
fl apping their wings, and fl ying.
If you are allergic to animals but still
want a pet, consider animals without
dander like a fi sh, turtle, or other reptile.