The solution ranges from vaccinations to very strict hygiene measures at home
Sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat, even difficulty breathing. It happens all year round and it’s worse when I’m home…especially when I’m around my cat. I didn’t used to notice it so much, but over the past few months it has gotten worse. What should I do?
Well, if this applies to you, the first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment with an allergy specialist.
Where does allergy come from?
According to a book on allergic diseases written by the Spanish Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology and edited by the BBVA Foundation.
“Contrary to what most people think, the fur itself is not the cause of the allergy. It is caused by proteins found in the saliva, urine and scales of the skin of the animal that disperse in the atmosphere. These are responsible for symptoms such as rhinoconjunctivitis. , asthma, skin rashes and even anaphylaxis, ”explains Manuel De Las Heras Gonzalo, allergy specialist at the Jiménez Díaz Foundation.
The hypoallergenic myth
So, could hypoallergenic breeds be the answer for someone with this problem?
“It’s a commercial myth more than anything else, because to create such breeds would require genetic engineering to remove the protein that causes the allergy from the animal’s DNA,” says psychologist Nacho Sierra. specialized in animal behavior. However, as a rough guide, he says “Short-haired animals have fewer elements for protein to travel in a volatile fashion, as do those with woolly or curly hairs like water dogs. With these types, the possibility of an allergic reaction is reduced”.
Four out of ten households in Spain have a pet
Dogs and cats, the most common pets in homes – there are five million dogs and three million cats in Spanish homes – are a frequent cause of respiratory allergic diseases, and this is something that seems increase all over the world.
“Obviously, the more pets there are in a house – 40% of households in Spain have one – the greater the exposure to these animals and therefore the higher the probability of developing an allergy”, explains Manuel Lázaro from the College of Veterinarians of Madrid. .
He also points out, however, that a review of recently published papers suggests that early exposure to cats and dogs may protect against developing an allergy to them later in life.
How is a pet allergy diagnosed by a specialist?
“Similar to other types of allergies, there are different methods such as skin testing or determining the IgE antibodies in the patient’s blood to the animal allergens that could be causing the problem” , explains Álvaro Amo Vázquez de la Torre. , allergy specialist at Clínica Amo Salud and member of Top Doctors.
Hygiene measures or immunotherapy?
“If it turns out that I am allergic to my pet, should I get rid of it?”
Well, the most effective option is not to have a pet, obviously, but if you want to keep it – bearing in mind the emotional factor involved – strict hygiene measures must be taken such as giving regular baths to the animal, not letting it sleep in your room or installing air purifiers with Hepa filters, recommends Vázquez de la Torre.
“You can also have an allergy vaccination. These last for three to five years and what they do is teach the immune system that the allergen in animals is not harmful, so it does not does not cause an allergic reaction (which would be a wrong answer),” he says.
This specialist does not recommend changing the type of pet, because if someone is sensitized to one species, it is very likely that they will also end up being sensitized to others.
“Although there would be no problem switching to reptiles, amphibians or fish,” he says.
Immunotherapy with animal allergens should be considered for allergy sufferers where exposure to animals is unavoidable.
Topical products can also be a solution – those applied to body surfaces – for pets. “By reducing the peeling of the skin and compacting it to prevent it from becoming so volatile, they can be a great help in avoiding allergens”, explains Manuel Lázaro.
Hypersensitivity to birds
There are 22 million pets in Spain. Besides dogs and cats, do other animals cause allergies?
“Yes, there are allergies to birds that can cause respiratory problems and, to a lesser extent, to amphibians or reptiles such as iguanas and lizards, but these cases are more exceptional,” explains Vázquez de la Torre.
Rodents and horses can also be a problem, in some cases, as Manuel Lázaro points out.