What to Do if Your Friend Is Allergic to Your Pet

What to Do if Your Friend Is Allergic to Your Pet

woman with cat allergies

Here’s a conundrum: You’ve been planning to have your new friend over for a  game night for weeks and just found out that he is allergic to your pet. Do you have to call off the gathering? Unless your friend’s allergies are quite severe, your home will likely not have to become entirely off-limits. With a bit of advance preparation, you can help your friend ward off sniffles, watery eyes, and other symptoms so that you can focus on games, conversation, and fun.

RELATED STORY: How to Live With Cat Allergies ... And Your Cat!

Try an OTC Solution

Remind your friend that Fido or Fluffy is one of your favorite roommates before this visit. This way, he can take an over-the-counter medication, such as Zyrtec, Benadryl, or Claritin, before coming over. It's a great idea to keep some of these over-the-counter solutions available in your home in case folks forget to dose them in advance. But remind friends, family, and allergy sufferers that when it comes to allergy medications, taking them before exposure to the allergen is best.

Use Your HEPA

If you have a HEPA air purifier, let it run before your visitors arrive, and continue to keep it on while they are at your home as well. Vacuum your home thoroughly, preferably with a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. Using a HEPA air purifier will help to remove dander from the air within your home.

Go Dander-Free

Speaking of dander: When it comes to pet allergies, it’s the dander that causes the biggest problem. Pet dander is made up of the tiny flakes of skin that your cat or dog sheds. According to the American Lung Association, the allergens from dander remain in the air even longer than other common allergy triggers, such as dust mites. The more dander you can remove from your home, the better experience your allergic guests will have. As mentioned above, using a HEPA air filter can be helpful. You’ll also want to vacuum thoroughly and, if possible, wash cushions and other fabric around the home -- focus on tackling items that your pet is in frequent contact with and that your guest is also likely to touch. For instance, if your cat tends to perch on a cushion on your couch, think about washing the cushion’s cover or maybe just removing it from the living room.

RELATED STORY: What You Should Know About Pet Dander

Bathe Your Pet

Before your friend comes over, it could be a good idea to give your cat or dog a bath. This helps with the dander problem. Give your pet a thorough brushing as well. RELATED STORY: How to Wash Your Cat

Avoid Contact

If it’s possible, keep your pet in a separate room or area of your home. Of course, a visit from your friend shouldn’t feel like a punishment for your cat or dog, so make sure that wherever they’re kept, your pet is comfortable. Finally, your friend probably already knows, but remind your buddy not to cuddle or hug your cat or dog. Affection and contact increase the chances of allergies starting. Of course, as much as you scrub and aim to remove your pet’s dander, you can’t make your friend allergy-free. It’s possible that even with all of these strategies, your friend may still experience some symptoms -- hopefully, your pal will be spared a full-blown attack, and you’ll both be able to enjoy your time together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can someone who’s allergic to cats live with one?

It is possible for someone who is allergic to cats to live with one, but it may require some additional steps to reduce the amount of allergens in the home. These steps may include regular grooming and bathing of the cat, using air purifiers and HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air, and vacuuming and dusting frequently to remove allergens from surfaces. You should also keep the cat out of certain rooms or areas of the home and use hypoallergenic bedding and furniture covers. It's not completely possible to eliminate all allergens in the home, so people who are severely allergic may still experience symptoms even with these measures in place. It's best to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action for managing cat allergies.

How do you make someone less allergic to cats?

There is currently no known way to make someone less allergic to cats. Allergic reactions to cats are caused by an immune system response to proteins found in cat dander (dead skin cells), urine, and saliva. The only way to alleviate symptoms of cat allergies is to avoid exposure to cats or to take steps to reduce exposure to allergens in the home. Medications like antihistamines, nasal sprays, and corticosteroids can help to reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Another option is immunotherapy, which involves gradually exposing the person to increasing amounts of cat allergens over time in order to desensitize their immune system.

What to do if your roommate is allergic to your cat?

If your roommate is allergic to your cat, there are several steps you can take to help reduce their exposure to allergens and alleviate their symptoms. Keep the cat out of your roommate's bedroom and common areas of the house as much as possible. Regularly groom and bathe your cat to remove dander and other allergens from their fur. Use air purifiers and HEPA filters to remove allergens from the air. Vacuum and dust frequently to remove allergens from surfaces. Consider using hypoallergenic bedding and furniture covers. Clean litter boxes often and away from your roommate's living area.

Can I build immunity to cat allergy?

Building immunity to a cat allergy is not currently possible. Allergic reactions to cats are caused by an immune system response to proteins found in cat dander (dead skin cells), urine, and saliva. When a person is exposed to these proteins, their immune system recognizes them as foreign and produces antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to fight off the allergen. However, as we mentioned before, there is a treatment called immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, which involves gradually exposing a person to increasing amounts of cat allergens over time in order to desensitize their immune system. This treatment is usually recommended for people with severe and persistent allergies. The treatment is usually given as a subcutaneous injection, under close monitoring of an allergist, and it is usually given as a series of injections over several months or even years. This treatment may not work for everyone, and it may not completely eliminate allergies, but it can help reduce symptoms and improve a person's overall quality of life.

Tell us how you handle guests with pet allergies in the comments. And, if you're looking for a discount on pet shampoo and other commonly used pet-care supplies, consider being a part of PetPlus, a new benefits program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more. 

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