Cat Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and Prevention

Having cat allergies, whether yours or a family member’s, may bring up a lot of concerns. Could your son’s never-ending cold symptoms be due to a cat allergy? Despite your allergies, would you regret giving in to your daughter’s requests for a kitten? Will a hypoallergenic cat enable you to have the pet you’ve always wanted without causing you to sneeze and sniffle?
Source – Daily Paws

Having cat allergies, whether yours or a family member's, may bring up a lot of concerns. 

Read on to discover all you need to know about cat allergies, including the origins, treatments, and how to prevent them.


Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 17 Dec 2021.

Cat Allergies: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and Prevention

Having cat allergies, whether yours or a family member’s, may bring up a lot of concerns. Could your son’s never-ending cold symptoms be due to a cat allergy? Despite your allergies, would you regret giving in to your daughter’s requests for a kitten? Will a hypoallergenic cat enable you to have the pet you’ve always wanted without causing you to sneeze and sniffle?

Read on to discover all you need to know about cat allergies, including the origins, treatments, and how to prevent them.

What Causes Cat Allergies?

Cats are one of the most frequent causes of pet allergies, which affect around 10% of the population in the United States. Allergies to cats are twice as prevalent as allergies to dogs. But, contrary to popular belief, it is not the fur or hair that is the main issue. Cat allergies are caused by proteins found in the saliva, urine, and dander of cats (dried flakes of skin).

How can these small proteins trigger such a strong immune response in the body? Allergy patients have immune systems that are too sensitive. Their systems misinterpret innocuous substances, such as cat dander, as harmful intruders and attack them as germs or viruses would. The side consequences of your body's attack on the allergen, or trigger, are allergy symptoms.

Keep in mind that even if you don't have a cat allergy, your cat may cause your allergies to flare up indirectly. On their hair, outside cats may carry pollen, mildew, and other allergies into the house.

What about cats that are said to be “hypoallergenic"? While certain breeds, such as the “hairless" sphinx, are believed to be less prone to produce cat allergy symptoms than others, any cat may create difficulties. It doesn't matter what breed it is, how long its hair is, or how much it sheds. If you or another member of your household is allergic to cats, acquiring one — regardless of breed — is not an intelligent choice.

What Are the Symptoms of Cat Allergies?

Cat allergy may cause the following symptoms:

  • wheeze and coughing
  • hives on the chest and face, or a rash on the chest and face
  • eyes that are hot and stinging
  • a rash on your skin caused by a cat scratching, biting, or licking you
  • nose that is runny, itchy, and stuffy
  • sneezing

Cat allergy symptoms may occur in as little as a few minutes or as long as several hours. After coming into touch with a cat, around 20% to 30% of individuals with allergic asthma have significant flare-ups.

How Do I Know if I Have a Cat Allergy?

Although the symptoms of a cat allergy may seem to be self-evident, they are not always caused by the cat. Getting confirmation from your doctor is a brilliant idea. After all, you don't want to accuse Mr Whiskers unfairly.

To determine whether you're allergic, your doctor may do a skin or blood test. However, allergy tests aren't always accurate, so your doctor may advise you to try living without a cat for a few months to observe how your allergy symptoms change.

How Are Cat Allergies Treated?

Cat allergies are typically treated with over-the-counter medications. Your doctor may advise you to:

  • Antihistamines, Some antihistamines, including cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine (Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin), are accessible over-the-counter; others, like azelastine (Astelin), are available as a nasal spray.
  • Decongestants, allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Allegra-D, Claritin-D, Zyrtec-D, or over-the-counter pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
  • Nasal steroid sprays can have various effects on allergy or asthma symptoms; steroid sprays are a popular allergy therapy. Over-the-counter steroid sprays include budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone (Flonase), and triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24HR).

Another possibility is allergy injections. Allergy injections aren't always successful, and treatment may take years to complete. They're also not recommended for youngsters under the age of five. However, for some individuals, they may be very beneficial. Consult your doctor to see whether they are appropriate for you.

Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid an allergic reaction. According to research, early contact with pets seems to decrease the chance of developing pet allergies later in life. A child who already has allergic tendencies, on the other hand, may become much more sensitive after being exposed to a pet.

Reducing Exposure to Cats

While medical treatment for cat allergies is available, the best course is to avoid cats and dander. Here are a few pointers.

  • Don't touch, hug, or kiss cats. Although it should be apparent, some individuals believe that a bit of cat interaction is OK. It isn't the case.
  • Beware of visitors who own cats. Even if your visitors leave their cats at home, the dander may get on their clothes and baggage. Some individuals may have severe cat allergy symptoms as a result of this indirect contact.
  • Plan. If you must stay in a home with cats, request that the cat be kept out of the room where you will sleep for a few weeks before your arrival. Also, begin taking your allergy medicine a few weeks ahead of time. It's difficult to stop an allergic response once it's already started. Taking medication, on the other hand, may help prevent it from occurring in the first place.

But what if you already have a feline companion? The most logical suggestion is to avoid having a cat in the house if you or a family member suffers from cat allergies.

Of course, such severe counsel may be challenging to implement. What if your children are already smitten with a kitten? What if you vowed to keep your cat for the rest of your life? If the cat is compelled to remain, there are additional options.

  • Keep your distance. Limit your contact with the cat. Indeed, another family member should be responsible for the cat's care and duties, such as litter box cleaning.
  • Restrict the cat to specific sections of the house. Allowing your cat to wander freely is not a good idea. Always keep the cat out of your bedroom.
  • Keep the cat outdoors as much as possible. Some individuals get past their cat allergies this way. Make sure your cat is safe outdoors, however.
  • Clean rigorously and often. Dander from cats goes all over the place. As a result, you should sweep and mop the floors regularly, vacuum the carpets, and clean the furniture. Choose a vacuum with a HEPA filter since ordinary filters may not be fine enough to capture allergens. Get rid of dander-attracting carpets and draperies.
  • Clear the air. A central air cleaner and filters on the vents may help keep cat dander from spreading throughout the home.
  • Consider bathing your cat regularly. Experts are divided on whether bathing helps decrease allergy levels. However, if it doesn't cause too much stress to the cat, you might try it and see if it helps.

While these methods may be beneficial, they may not be sufficient. As difficult as it may be, if keeping your cat puts your health — or the health of a family member — in jeopardy, you must consider giving it up.

Whatever you do, don't think that you'll be able to wait it out and that your cat allergies will go away on their own. Things may deteriorate worse. Allergies out of control may cause more than just misery; they can also raise the risk of asthma, a severe illness.

As a result, don't dismiss the symptoms of cat allergy. You are consulting the doctor instead. You can find out the best solution to the issue if you work together.

Sources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/allergies/cat-allergies 
  2. ACP Medicine: “Allergic Rhinitis, Conjunctivitis, and Sinusitis."
  3. Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics: “The Real Truth About Cats and Dogs;" “Splitting Hairs Over Cat Allergies;" “Allergies: Pet Allergies;" and “Hype and Hairballs."
  4. American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology: “Tips to Remember: What Are Allergy Shots?" and “Advice From Your Allergist…Pet Allergy."
  5. American Academy of Pediatrics: “When Pets Are a Problem."
  6. Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Pet Allergies."
  7. FDA. News release.
  8. Hugh H. Windom, MD, associate clinical professor of immunology, University of South Florida; private practice, Sarasota, Fla.
  9. Jay M. Portnoy, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI); Chief, Section of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City.
  10. Jonathan A. Bernstein, MD, allergist, Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Cincinnati, Division of Immunology/Allergy.
  11. Pramod S. Kelkar, MD, FAAAAI, private practice, Maple Grove, MN; Chair of the Cough Task Force of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
  12. Sanofi-aventis U.S. News release.
  13. WebMD Medical Reference: “Allergy Medications."
  14. WebMD Medical News, “Pets May Prevent Allergies in Kids."
  15. UpToDate.com. “Patient information: Allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies) (Beyond the Basics).”

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