Sunday, November 18, 2018



   

Ah-Choo! I’m Allergic to My Dog!

Allergies can be miserable, and if you find out your dog is the cause of your misery it’s even more unsettling.  You may find yourself torn between your love for your dog and your health and well-being.

sneeze from allergies

Dog allergies can make your life miserable unless you take steps to mitigate their affects.

An ounce of prevention… 

Of course, in a perfect world, you will know if you or any members of your family are allergic to dogs before you bring your new little fur bundle home.  There are certain breeds that are less likely to cause allergy symptoms than others, so you don’t have to live a dog-free life even if you do have allergies.

Dogs with single coats are less likely to irritate allergy sufferers than the double-coated breeds, which tend to “blow” their undercoats in the spring and fall.  And the shed fur, of course, can create a nuisance not only for housekeepers, but also for people who are allergic to dogs.

The dog breeds which are least likely to cause allergy problems are the Poodle and the Portuguese Water Dog.  These dogs have single coats and shed very little.

But it’s not just the fur that causes the problem.  Most people think that if you get rid of the dog fur, you get rid of the allergy problem but it just ain’t so.  Most people are allergic to a protein that is found in the dog’s saliva and on his skin, in addition to on the fur.

Even if you lived with a Poodle and shaved him or her bald, you might still have an allergic reaction because you simply can’t get rid of the protein (unless you get rid of the entire dog!)

What causes me to have an allergy attack? 

An allergic reaction requires that you be exposed to the substance that causes the problem (known as the allergen) at least twice.  At the first exposure, your body will send antibodies to identify and conquer the foreign protein.  When the body is next exposed to the same allergen, the antibodies recognize it immediately and tell the body to release histamine to “rally the troops” and rid the body of the invading allergen as soon as possible.

Histamine is the real culprit when it comes to allergy symptoms.  Histamine can cause your nose to run, your eyes to water, and your skin to itch.  It can even trigger an asthma attack or something more serious like anaphylactic shock.

So, when you’re allergic to dogs, the proteins found in their saliva, on their fur, and on their skin are the allergens that set off a histamine response.  When dry skin, called dander, flakes off of the dog’s skin, it floats around in the air and can find it’s way into your nose, where it sets off the chain of events that result in your feeling awful.

What can I do about my dog allergies? 

Let’s say you already have the dog and are deeply attached when you notice that one or more of your family members are allergic to him or her.  What do you do then?

Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the problems your dog will cause.  Frequent grooming is a good start.  The more you brush your dog, the more you will contain the dander and loose fur, keeping it out of the air.  A non-allergic person should take the dog outside daily and give him a thorough brushing, making sure to collect all of the loose fur and dispose of it.

Weekly baths may also help keep down the dander problem.

Good housekeeping is also key.  Frequent dusting and vacuuming will help to further remove loose fur and dander from the environment.  If possible, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to capture even more of the problematic allergens.

Dogs on hardwood floor

Hardwood flooring helps minimize dog allergens in your home.

Keep the dog out of the bedroom of the allergic person.  Having one room that is a “safe haven” can make all the difference.

As you remodel the various rooms in your home, think in terms of eliminating things that trap dog hair and dander.  Textiles like carpets, overstuffed furniture, and nubby-textured draperies can be magnets for allergens.  Install hardwood, tile or linoleum floors and use area rugs that can be thrown in the washer periodically.  Use blinds rather than draperies.  Modern furniture can also be easier to remove dust from.

Consider investing in HEPA filters for your central air conditioning and furnace.  You may even need room-sized air filters or filters for individual vents.

 Talk to your doctor 

You might want to submit to allergy tests to make sure it’s the dog you’re allergic to.  It may be that your dog is dragging in pollen from outdoors that’s causing the problem.  Your doctor will scratch a small area of your skin with small sticks that contain a small amount of different allergens.  After waiting about 15 – 30 minutes for a reaction to appear, the test will be “read”.  The areas that welt and turn red indicate which allergens you reacted to.

Once you know what’s causing the problem, you can begin to fight it.  If it turns out you are allergic to dogs, you may want to think about allergy shots.  Under controlled conditions, your doctor will inject you with small amounts of allergen on a weekly basis.  The idea is that your body will eventually be desensitized to the allergen and see it as normal, which should prevent the release of histamine.

Other treatments center on two things:  fighting the histamine release and decongesting your nasal passages.  Antihistamines counteract the histamine released in reaction to the invasion of allergens, which should reduce your symptoms.  Common over-the-counter antihistamines are Zyrtec, Claritin, and Benadryl.  Some of these can cause drowsiness, so care should be taken when operating heavy machinery.

Decongestants reduce the swelling associated with histamine, which will relieve your stuffy nose.  Decongestants are sold over-the-counter, literally.  You must ask the pharmacist for them because the ingredients in them can be used to make methamphetamines.  You are permitted to have only a limited amount of this type of drug in your home at any one time, and you must sign a statement acknowledging that you want a decongestant for medical use.  Many of the antihistamine brands mentioned above also come in a form that includes decongestant, designated by the letter “D” following the name, for example Zyrtec-D.

Steroid nasal mists such as Flonase or Nasonex  are available only by prescription and can also help to reduce your symptoms.  It can take about two weeks of continuous use before you will notice a difference.

What if nothing helps? 

If you’ve tried all of the above and you or a family member is still suffering, it may be time to admit that your home will not be able to include dogs.  If you can’t find a friend or family member to take your dog, please be responsible and surrender the dog to a shelter rather than dumping him alongside of the road somewhere.

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