Cats are beloved members of the family of millions of Americans. Unfortunately, these pets are also allergen factories for 25% of the population, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
29% of asthma cases may be related to cat allergens.
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, a 2007 study
Understanding cat allergies
The fact that the cat's skin is the cause of allergies is a misconception, the main culprit is a protein called "Fel d 1", which is excreted through the skin and saliva of the cat and is spread throughout your body when cleaned. The saliva of pets can reach many more places than you think; It can adhere to bedding, rugs, furniture and even clothing.
Allergens are also found in hair and skin cells (dandruff) that cats shed. Dandruff is small and can remain in the air for long periods of time, making it easy to inhale. It can also accumulate in fabrics and clothing.
Symptoms of pet allergies typically develop around your nasal passages after you have inhaled the allergen. They include:
• Red, watery and itchy eyes • Swollen and discolored skin under the eyes • Stuffy nose, with secretions and itching • Sneezing • Itching in the throat • Coughing • Postnasal drainage • Pain and sinus pressure • Sleeping badly (as a result of uncomfortable symptoms)
Allergies to cats and urticaria
In addition to nasal symptoms, some people may also exhibit signs of allergic contact dermatitis, an immune system reaction that causes inflammation, redness and irritation of the skin.
When an allergic person comes into contact with saliva or cat dander, the immune system reacts to protect the body by releasing histamines, which are chemicals the body produces to fight external invaders. The resulting raised and itchy urticaria or skin patches are a direct result of the allergen causing a local immune response.
Allergies to cats and asthma
29% of asthma cases may be related to cat allergens, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
If you are in this group, you may discover that cat allergens can:
• Make it harder to breathe • Cause pain or tightness in the chest • Produce a wheezing or wheezing sound • Provoke coughs • Interfere with your sleep hours
Deal with allergies to cats
If you know you are allergic, the best thing you can do for your health is to avoid cat allergens.This will not cure your allergy, but it can reduce the uncomfortable symptoms and asthma attacks significantly. Your doctor or allergist can also prescribe medications to help you control symptoms when you can not avoid cat allergens. Some treatment options suggested by the Mayo Clinic are:
• Antihistamines to help control the immune response to allergens • Decongestants to decrease nasal inflammation • Corticosteroids to control inflammation • Sodium cromolino, a nasal spray that prevents the release of histamines • Modifiers of leukotrienes, which inhibit the production of chemicals that cause airway oppression and mucus production in excess
You can also talk about allergy shots or immunotherapy with your doctor. This type of treatment includes a series of injections with small amounts of cat allergens, which can desensitize the response of your immune system and relieve your symptoms. Be sure to discuss all treatment options and potential side effects with your doctor.
About the author
Boyan Hadjiev, MD, has practiced medicine for five years. He is twice certified in Internal Medicine (2003) and Allergy and Immunology (2005).
Dr. Hadjiev graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in biology and an MD from the Cleveland Clinic-Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.