Have you ever buried your face in your cat or dog’s fur, sighed happily, and then instantly regretted all of it? You and your hive-covered face are not alone. Around three in 10 Americans have pet allergies — with cat allergies being twice as common as dog allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
While the best advice for people with pet allergies is to avoid contact with cats and dogs all together (which, if anyone asks, we gave you), we both know that’s probably not going to happen. So instead of avoiding your problems, why not try to solve them? We’ve scrounged up some of the top tips to help you hang out with pets without sneezing the entire time. Start with these steps:
While there’s no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog or cat, certain breeds may be easier for you to spend time with than others. That’s because some breeds produce more dander than others — and larger breeds have more dander to go around, so a smaller breed may be better suited for you. Or, if you really want to play it safe, opt for a fish, snake, or turtle as a pet instead.
If you’re not big on reptiles and still want a dog or cat, try keeping your fur baby mainly outdoors. “If you’re only allergic to the pet and aren’t allergic to anything they bring in, like pollen or ragweed, then it can help to keep them outdoors,” says Leanne Lilly, DVM, behavioral medicine resident at the Ohio State University in Columbus. If you don’t have a yard or live in a city where keeping your pet outside is impossible, try enlisting another (non-allergic) member of your household to brush your pet outdoors to help remove dander before bringing them back inside.
OK so this one’s a little hard and we’re all guilty of it. Quality sleep is everything — and you spend around one-third of your time in your bedroom, so it’s important to minimize allergens in the space where you get your ZZZs. The good news? Making it a pet-free zone can help. Consider encasing your mattress and pillows in allergy covers to help avoid an attack. Also: washing bedding one a week in hot water and drying on high will further reduce pet dander in your sacred sleep space.
Use HEPA air filters to keep the air in your home clean. Consider removing wall-to-wall carpet altogether, or getting a low-pile rug and using a HEPA vacuum regularly to help minimize pet dander around the home. Tapestries like cloth curtains can easily collect dander, so be sure to clean them regularly. And aim to keep surfaces clean and uncluttered, so there’s less for pet dander to stick to. You may not always be able to see it, but trust us (and your nose), it’s there.
Bathing your pet once a week can help reduce their dander levels, and therefore reduce your risk of an allergy attack. Just be sure to only use bathing products designed for your pet specifically. Ask your vet for their recommendation. “Keeping your pet well-groomed can also help minimize dander,” says Dr. Lilly.
“Depending on the degree of allergic reaction you have, these steps may not be enough,” explains Lilly. So it’s important to work closely with an allergist who understands how committed you are to your pet, so they can help you manage your allergy to pet dander.
Your allergist can recommend over-the-counter meds, prescribe stronger options, or provide immunotherapy to help you hang out with your pet without experiencing an allergy attack. According to the Humane Society, following your prescribed pet allergy treatment plan along with keeping dander to a minimum in your home can help most pet parents live a happy, healthy life with their pets.