Fast Five Quiz: Allergy Triggers

Praveen Buddiga, MD


August 23, 2019

One of the most important recommendations for the family—removal of the pet—may also be the most difficult to accept because many pets are considered to be part of the family. However, everyone must understand that continued exposure to a pet and its allergens occurs if the pet is kept in the home. People who are allergic to a pet need to implement effective lifestyle modifications to reduce their exposure to animal dander. Once the pet is removed, the time required for allergen levels to decrease to levels at which allergy-related problems no longer occur can be as long as 6 months.

In a study by Arbes and colleagues, all sampled homes in the United States contained dog allergen and most contained cat allergen, even homes without pets. Furthermore, most homes contained levels that exceeded the proposed levels for both sensitization and exacerbation of asthma symptoms.

The recommendation for a dog owner who is allergic to his or her pet is to bathe the dog at least weekly. However, the beneficial effects of reducing allergen levels by regular bathing are more likely to be successful with dogs because of the rapid buildup of the allergen burden in cats. Cat allergens have a high tendency to become airborne and adhere to walls and ceilings, eventually becoming a respiratory allergen trigger.

A study of the effects of vacuuming the carpet on cat allergen levels in the home failed to show any beneficial effects even when vacuums with modern high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are used. In fact, the amount of cat allergen found increased, possibly because of the sweeping motion of the brushes on the carpeting and the air disturbance from the exhaust flow.

Impermeable coverings are recommended for pillows, box springs, and mattresses because animal allergens remain airborne much longer than dust mite allergens. Air purifiers may be helpful; however, data to support their efficacy are lacking. Elimination of the reservoirs for allergens is an important component of the avoidance strategy.

Read more about furry pet allergens.


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