You love cats but always have to sneeze in their presence and your eyes get watery? Then you may have a cat hair allergy. Find out here how to reduce cat allergy symptoms and open the doors to plenty of cat cuddles.
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Some humans have an allergic reaction to their own pets.
Symptoms: What are the signs of a cat hair allergy in humans?
Cat hair allergy sufferers react with differing intensity to allergens on the animal and in their immediate surroundings. If the cat hair allergy is mild, you will experience complaints similar to hay fever:
- Your eyes water and are itchy
- You have to sneeze
- Your nose runs and feels congested (cold)
- You feel a scratchiness in your throat
If the allergy worsens, more severe signs of illness can emerge:
- Fatigue and sleep disorders
- Severe coughing fits to breathlessness
- Formation of reddened and itchy areas of skin (welts)
If you suffer from an allergic shock (anaphylactic shock), you can die from the associated consequences (e.g. hypotension and shortness of breath) within a short time without countermeasures.
Diagnosis: How is a cat hair allergy detected?
If you have allergic reactions in the presence of cats, it’s important that you have them checked out by a doctor. This is important as it is the only way to prevent long-term and severe complications (e.g. bronchial asthma).
However, your doctor can generally quickly detect a cat hair allergy by carrying out the following tests on you:
1. Skin tests
There are different possibilities to perform a skin test. The prick test or intradermal test are used particularly frequently in doctors’ practices. With the prick test, your doctor drips several liquids with different allergens onto your forearm marked with squares.
By carefully scratching, allergens can enter the skin. If red welts form in one of the squares at the puncture site, this indicates the main allergen.
The intradermal test is similar, but the doctor injects the substances directly beneath your skin.
2. Blood test (lab test)
When the doctor takes blood from you, they can get it tested in a lab for the presence of specific antibodies. If the concentration of IgE antibodies is increased, this is an indication of an allergy.
This test mostly serves to confirm the result of a skin test or if a skin test cannot be carried out due to skin ailments.
Treatment: How is a cat hair allergy treated in humans?
The easiest option to alleviate the symptoms of a cat hair allergy is avoiding allergens. This means avoiding contact with cats where possible. However, this isn’t always possible if you own a cat or cats are present in your neighbourhood or working environment. In these cases, you have the following alternatives:
Antihistamines in the form of eye drops, ointments or tablets help you to alleviate the allergic symptoms of a cat hair allergy. If you have severe reactions, you should always have at hand an inhalation spray with beta-2 sympathomimetics (e.g. salbutamol). This helps you if you can no longer breathe.
Cat food that reduces allergens to cat hair
A special cat food that can help deal with cat allergens has recently become available. This innovative food contains a specific egg protein that is proven to neutralise the allergens in cat saliva. When the cat cleans itself, less active allergen is distributed in its fur, reducing the allergen load in the environment.
A study has shown that allergens to cat hairs are reduced by an average of 47% as long as the cat has eaten the food on a daily basis over three weeks. Although the food doesn’t replace any other methods in dealing with allergens, it does contribute to reducing allergens in the environment and therefore makes the day-to-day life of a cat allergy sufferer easier.
If you too wish to try out this food, you should make sure of a gentle change in food.
Allergen immunotherapy (desensitisation)
If medication doesn’t help you with the symptoms of cat allergy, you can try desensitisation. This involves your doctor administering the causative allergens over several months with increasing doses. The objective is to get your immune system used to the allergens and to permanently reduce the overreaction.
What is the prognosis?
Most allergy sufferers only have a weak reaction. But if your immune system does overreact, you can suffer a life-threatening shock or develop allergic asthma.
Causes: What are the triggers?
Surveys have revealed that around one in five cat owners or someone living in the household is sensitive to cats. This doesn’t just increase the daily cleaning requirements – the relationship between cats and humans suffers too.
The culprits of cat allergies are special proteins that cats release through their saliva and sometime also through their urine and sebaceous glands. Strictly speaking, this isn’t a cat allergy like many assume.
If you come into contact with these allergens, your immune system will overreact. Your body releases histamine, which causes a drop in blood pressure along with itching and redness of the skin.
Prevention: Can a cat allergy be prevented?
You can develop a pet allergy at any time, so you can’t prevent it. However, you can get a grip on allergic symptoms through the different types of treatment.
46% of UK households own a pet, with a total pet population of 58 million, including 7 million cats and 0.5 million indoor birds. Many pet owners provide a home for more than one type of pet, with cats sometimes sharing a home with a budgie, parakeet or other bird, but what happens when you have a cat and a small pet?