Children and adults with cat allergies can experience a host of symptoms, including itching, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing, wheezing, and hives; this is a response to the protein found in the feline's dander, saliva, and urine. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) states that these symptoms can worsen with prolonged exposure to cats or other pets. Receiving appropriate medical treatment and removing allergens from the home environment, as well as on your pet, help desensitise a cat allergy.
Talk to your allergist or health care provider about immunotherapy (allergy shots) if you are a cat owner who wishes to keep a beloved pet, advises the AAAAI. Allergy shots are similar to a vaccine in that patients are injected with a small amount of certain allergens to increase tolerance to the specific allergen. This method of treatment is ideal for those who do not wish to take medications on an ongoing basis.
Immunotherapy involves a build-up phase, typically of three to six months, with injections received once or twice weekly, followed by a maintenance phase, which is received less frequently, sometimes bi-monthly or monthly. The AAAAI notes that some people begin to experience allergy relief during the build-up phase of treatment.
Take medications prescribed by your doctor to minimise symptoms of cat allergies if shot therapy is not an option. These may include antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids, and other oral drugs and inhalants.
Perform thorough and routine housekeeping to reduce the presence of cat dander. Vacuums equipped with a HEPA filter, which removes minute particles, are particularly helpful to reduce the presence of allergens. In addition to tending to carpeted areas and rugs, make sure that soft furnishings, including furniture and mattresses, are vacuumed as well.
Pay attention to air quality. HEPA air cleaners remove small particles of dander not removed during the course of vacuuming. Similarly, the use of air filters designed for allergen control and placing filters or screens over vents also removes these small airborne particles.
Bathe your cat at least once a week using a pet shampoo that removes allergens on your pet's skin and in his fur, advises the AAAAI. A family member who is not allergic to cats should perform this task (and all other grooming). You may also choose to take your cat to a professional groomer.
Restrict the areas in your home in which your pet can roam. The AAAAI notes that keeping your cat out of your bedroom--and off of your bed--reduces the presence of airborne allergens in your environment.
Removing carpeting and rugs from your home greatly reduces the accumulation of allergens. The AAAAI notes that the type of clothing you wear can be a factor in controlling cat allergies: those who wear freshly-washed t-shirts are exposed to the least amount of cat dander, while those who wear wool sweaters are exposed to 10 times as much.
Does the length of your cat's fur make a difference? According to the AAAAI, fur length does not affect the presence of dander, nor are there any genuine hypoallergenic cat breeds.