Puppies and kittens can be irresistible. With marketing hype about hypoallergenic dogs or cats, it gives families a false sense of security that adopting a “hypoallergenic” furry family member is a good option for people with pet allergies. Sometimes it is the logic used for adding a second pet to the home. It seems like a good idea. However when the  family adopts a pet without thinking about consequences for family members with animal dander allergies it can backfire. As an Allergist I have seen over and over again people who begin noticing increases in their asthma, eczema, or nasal-ocular allergy symptoms after moving in with an indoor furry pet, even a hypoallergenic one.

So what can you do if this happens to your family?

  1. Re-home the pet (find it another family to love). Realistically, this is rarely the answer. Once people have committed to adopting a pet they are devoted to it. They would be more likely to get rid of their Allergist for suggesting this before getting rid of the pet. If you choose this route, understand that even with heavy cleaning, it can take months for the pet dander to be completely eradicated from your home.

  2. Create a pet-free zone. Prevent the pet from entering the allergic family member’s bedroom. Keep the bedroom door closed at all times.

  3. Check your home furnace filters. Make sure they are designed to filter out pet dander and that they are replaced regularly. Get a HEPA air purifier at least in the allergic individual’s bedroom, maybe also in the family room.

  4. Bathe the pet 1-2 times per week. Bathing reduces dander levels and decreases exposure to allergen.

  5. Start allergy immunotherapy. Modifying your immune response to specific allergens can help the allergic individual tolerate allergens without bothersome symptoms. This is a gamechanger for someone who is in a “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em” situation with their beloved pet.

Take it from a fellow animal lover, living with pets and allergies can be done. With the right strategies, allergy symptoms can be managed without having to give up your furry friend.