Fast Five Quiz: Pets and Human Health Risks

Richard H. Sinert, DO


May 27, 2022

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. A study on 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.

The beneficial effects of reducing allergen levels by regular bathing are more likely to be successful with dogs than with cats 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.

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. Impermeable coverings are recommended for pillows, box springs, and mattresses because animal allergens remain airborne much longer than dust mite allergens.

Take a quiz on common allergy triggers.


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