How Can You Tell if You’re Allergic to Cats?
7 June, 2017
If you are a cat lover, it is really hard if you become allergic to cats or have always had an allergy issue. It is equally hard if you have a cat and your loved one or even roommate seems to be allergic to cats. As with any allergy, it is hard to really pinpoint the source of the allergy, so how can you tell if you’re allergic to cats?
What causes a cat allergy?
Cat allergies tend to be genetic. An allergy occurs because your immune system creates antibodies to fight off substances that might hurt your body as in a bacteria or virus. The immune system recognizes sees the allergen as something harmful and makes antibodies to fight it. And then you have the allergic symptoms like itching, runny nose, and asthma.
Allergens come from your cat’s dander
Allergens can come from your cat’s dander (dead skin), their salivary glands, and even their urine. Breathing in pet dander or coming into contact with allergens from the salivary glands or urine can cause an allergic reaction.
Cat dander is small enough to become airborne and settle on the walls, carpet, upholstery, clothing, and even your lungs. These allergens can linger in your home, causing you symptoms months after the cat is gone. In fact, you don’t even have to own a cat to be exposed! It travel’s on our clothes.
The symptoms of cat allergies are the following
Common signs of a cat allergy usually follow shortly after you come in contact with cat dander. This can cause red itchy eyes and nose, usually leading to eye inflammation and a stuffy nose or sneezing. The skin around a cat scratch may become red. Some people may develop a rash on their faces, necks, or upper chest.
If cat dander gets into your lungs, the allergen will combine with antibodies that may, in a severely allergic person, cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing, and wheezing. Cat allergies can also lead to chronic asthma.
How to diagnose if you are really allergic to cats
There are two ways to test for cat allergies: a skin prick test and a blood test. Skin prick testing is more sensitive and specific than blood testing. Both are done by an allergist.
1. The skin prick test
Your doctor will prick your skin’s surface (usually on the forearm or back), and a tiny amount of the allergen will enter. You’ll likely be tested for several allergens at the same time. You’ll also be injected with a control solution that has no allergens. Your doctor may number each prick to identify the allergen.
In about 15 to 20 minutes, the injection site may swell or become red. This reaction confirms an allergy to that substance. Cat allergies usually cause a red, itchy bump which go away after a half hour.
2. Blood test
If you have an existing skin condition, your doctor will order a blood test. The blood is then examined for antibodies to common allergens, such as cat dander.
How to treat cat allergies
Of course, if you are very allergic, avoiding cats is the best solution. But there are other ways to minimize the allergies:
Cat allergies can usually be controlled with standard allergy drugs. Your doctor might recommend:
Antihistamines, which are available over-the-counter — like cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), fexofenadine ( Allegra), and loratadine (Claritin)
Decongestants, like over-the-counter fexofenadine/pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D) or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
Nasal steroid sprays, which affect allergy or asthma symptoms in various ways. Steroid sprays are a common treatment for allergies. Budesonide (Rhinocort), fluticasone (Flonase), and triamcinolone (Nasacort) are steroid sprays that are available over the counter or by prescription.
Allergy shots known as immunotherapy (a series of shots that “desensitize” you to an allergen)
Nasal lavage is a home remedy for symptoms of cat allergies. Salt water (saline) is used to rinse your nasal passages, reducing congestion, postnasal drip, and sneezing. Several over-the-counter brands are available. You can make salt water at home by combining 1/8 teaspoon of table salt with 8 ounces of distilled water.
Air purifiers can help reduce airborne pet allergens
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are one of the best attacks against cat allergies. They reduce airborne pet allergens by forcing air through a special filter that traps pet dander (as well as pollen, dust mites, and other allergens).
If you want some other tips to minimize your cat allergies, you might like the following: How to Minimize Your Cat Allergies