Cat allergies -- looking for advice - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-23-2005, 10:39 AM Thread Starter
 
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Cat allergies -- looking for advice

My family and I have fallen in love with a cat that we want to adopt. My problem is that my six-year-old has cat allergies. We have been in homes with one cat, and he has stayed and played for long periods of time with no visible reaction. He has only reacted two times -- once at my brothers house (they have four cats in a small place and fur is EVERYWHERE) and at the SPCA (and then, only watery eyes, but we washed hands and took extra precautions). He seems to react to cats only when there are lots of allergens present -- i.e. large numbers of cats or fur. We have a HEPA filter in the house, and I vacuum very regularly anyways, plus we plan to keep the cat out of the bedroom. Does anyone have any strategies for managing allergies?
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-23-2005, 12:17 PM
 
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i got this from a website. hope it helps a little
If your or a family member's allergies are simply miserable, but not life-threatening, take these steps to reduce the symptoms:

Create an "allergy free" zone in the home—preferably the bedroom—and strictly prohibit the pet's access to it. Use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner (available at almost any home and garden store or discount department store) in the bedroom. Consider using impermeable covers for the mattress and pillows because allergen particles brought into the room on clothes and other objects can accumulate in them.

Use HEPA air cleaners throughout the rest of the home, and avoid dust-and-dander-catching furnishings such as cloth curtains and blinds and carpeted floors. Clean frequently and thoroughly to remove dust and dander, washing articles such as couch covers and pillows, curtains, and pet beds. Use a "microfilter" bag in the vacuum cleaner to effectively catch all the allergens.

Bathing your pet on a weekly basis can reduce the level of allergens on fur by as much as 84%. Although products are available that claim to reduce pet allergens when sprayed on the animal's fur, studies show they are less effective than a weekly bath. Even cats can become accustomed to being bathed; check with your veterinarian's staff or a good book on pet care for directions about how to do this properly, and use whatever shampoo your veterinarian recommends.

Don't be quick to blame the family pet for allergies. Ask your allergist to specifically test for allergies to pet dander, rather than making an assumption. And understand that allergies are cumulative. Many allergy sufferers are sensitive to more than one allergen. So if you're allergic to dust, insecticides, pollen, cigarette smoke, and cat dander, you'll need to reduce the overall allergen level in your environment by concentrating on all of the causes, not just the pet allergy. For example, you may need to step up measures to remove cat dander from your home and carefully avoid cigarette smoke during spring, when it is difficult to avoid exposure to pollen.

Immunotherapy (allergy shots) can improve symptoms but cannot eliminate them entirely. They work by gradually desensitizing a person's immune system to the pet allergens. Allergy-causing proteins are injected under the person's skin, triggering the body to produce antibodies (protective proteins) which block the pet allergen from causing a reaction. Patients are usually given one dose per week for a few weeks to months (depending on the severity of the allergy) and then can often manage with one injection per month.

Additional treatments for allergies to pets are symptomatic, including steroidal and antihistamine nose sprays and antihistamine pills. For asthma, there are multiple medications, sprays, and inhalers available. It is important to find an allergist who understands your commitment to living with your pet. A combination of approaches—medical control of symptoms, good housecleaning methods, and immunotherapy—is most likely to succeed in allowing an allergic person to live with pets.

Of course, if you do not currently have a pet and are considering one, and know you are pet-allergic, be sure to consider carefully whether you can live with the allergy before you bring a new pet home. Except in the case of children, who sometimes outgrow allergies, few allergy sufferers become accustomed to pets to whom they are allergic. Too many allergic owners obtain pets without thinking through the difficulties of living with them. And too often, they end up relinquishing pets, a decision that is difficult for the owner and can be life-threatening for the pet.
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-23-2005, 12:38 PM
 
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I'm allergic to cats - I get hayfever-symptoms, and asthma attacks. I also have 2 cats.

I've found that by taking GOOD antihistamines in a morning and on a night for two weeks, then stopping taking them in a morning gradually seems to reduce my allergy - to the point where, 10 weeks on from getting my first cat, I am allergy free. Washing hands before touching eyes has been another good precaution for me whilst still in the 'allergic' stages.

I don't know whether this is simply because my allergies are reasonably minor, though.
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-23-2005, 05:51 PM
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-23-2005, 07:47 PM
 
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Allergies to cats (and allergies in general) come in many different severities.
I know people who have had anaphalactic reactions to being around cats. It can be a life-threatening situation if the allergy is bad enough. My brother had feline induced asthma growing up. If he was in a house that had a cat he would immediatly have a very severe asthma attack needing to go to the ER for treatment. He did outgrow that. He now actually owns a cat.
I also have a young cousin who gets really bad hives and his eyes swell shut and he has a hard time breathing if he is in a house with a cat. He reacts worse in some houses than others. He can't even come in my house for 5 minutes without reacting, but he can spend an hour or so in other houses. My house is clean (I vacuum daily-golden retriever!). Then I have friends that just get itchy eyes and stuffy noses that can easily be prevented by taking an anti-histimine.
Before you consider getting a cat, I think you seriously need to put some thought into what you would do with the cat if your child can't tolerate it? I'm not saying don't do it, since allergies do vary in severity, but you need to have a backup plan if you can't keep the cat.

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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-24-2005, 03:39 AM
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I developed an allergy to cats a few years ago, an I also have allergy induced asthma. I've developed a bit of a tolerance to my own cats, since I notice that I usually react worse to other people's cats.
Besides frequent vacuuming and dusting, our cat get a bath about every other week. The cats hate it, but it really helps to reduce my allergy symptoms. I also make sure to wash my hands after petting the cats, and I usually take allergy medication daily. It also helps to wipe the cats fur periodically with a damp cloth. It wipes off some of the dander before it can become airborn, and its less stressful than a bath.

Feed a high quality food, as it will improve skin and coat health and reduce shedding. Brush the cat often to remove loose hair.

I agree that keeping the cat out of the bedrooms is a very good idea. I can't really do this, as I live in a smaller apartment, and I don't think I'd have the heart to kick my cat out of my room after she's been welcome to sleep on my bed for the past 12 years. If I did though, I'm sure I would have fewer problems with allergies.

I think its great that you're thinking about adopting a cat, but I think you should give it a lot of thought yet, and it would be a good idea to talk to your family doctor. Because it is your child that is allergic, I think that this needs to be carefully considered. As adults, we can make our own decisions about our health, but children can't. I choose to have cats even though I'm allergic. Some days my allergies make me feel really rotten, but I made that decision so I am willing to live with it. Its different for a child who must rely on parents or adults to make the decisions that would be for their best interest.

Good luck with your decision. If you do get a cat, be sure to come back and share some pictures!
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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-24-2005, 09:33 AM
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Have you discussed this with your child's pediatrician? Is your child asthmatic or already on allergy medication? I would proceed carefully here.

My friend had cats, and her son was diagnosed with allergies at around the age of four. It took awhile before they could find new homes for them, and her son was sniffling some but it was nothing much. Now he is seven and his allergies are much worse -- he can't come into my house (3 cats) without medication or his whole face puffs up.

My point is that allergies are unpredictable. If you haven't already, you ought to see an allergy specialist for tests and a consultation before you take in a cat.

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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-24-2005, 12:46 PM Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the input

I appreciate everyone's input. We recently found out our son was allergic to animals through exposure to guinea pigs....he apparently is most allergic to them, and mildly allergic to cats, dogs, hay, and pollen. He has never had any type of asmatic reaction (thankfully!) even when exposed to large numbers of animals. We have set a date for six months from now to look at adopting -- I wish that all the world's adoptable animals would have homes by then, but chances are they'll still be some animals looking for home -- and see how we feel then. In the meantime, we'll be trying to spend some time around cats and cat houses to see if Koby has any type of reaction, and what that is...I agree it's not fair to ask a six year old to take mecication every day, or be uncomfortable in his own home.
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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-26-2005, 05:02 PM
 
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One word: Rhinocort!

I am quite allergic to cats, among other things, and throughout my life I've been on some form of medication or another for it. Rhinocort, which is a steroid nose spray (but can be used long-term unlike other steroids like prednisone), is the only thing that let me be able to hold my cats up to my face and breathe them in.

I still can't let their kitty noses touch a sensitive part of my skin (like my neck) without grabbing for the cortisone cream, but that's manageable.

I have a shrine to Rhinocort in my closet. Not really, but I ought to.

I know it's not fun to be a six-year-old on a daily medication -- I was one -- but having to deal with stuff like that so young taught me at an early age to take care of my health. But for me, it was/is either medication or no kitties. Well, I have to choose the kitties.

Also, a healthy, well-treated cat in a household won't be as much of an allergen as the kitties in the shelter. When we adopted our Hermione, it took a few weeks for her coat to get healthy and more hypoallergenic. At least as hypoallergenic as a cat can get.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 09-26-2005, 07:26 PM
 
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My daughter and I HAD terrible allergies to cats. We both had allergy shots for a year and we are now allergy free. I can highly recommend them as having allergies is a real drag. You can't go anywhere there are pets. It was awful not being able to go to my friends houses because they had pets. having the shots was the BEST THING WE EVER DID for ourselves! My brother, after seeing such great success with us is now going to take his daughetr who is 7 for shots as she loves my kittens but can't be around them. Something for you to consider!
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