According to the Pet Online Library, 10 to 15 percent of people are allergic to pets, and cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies. There are ways to lessen your allergic reactions: Put plastic on your couches, beds and anywhere the cat will most likely be sitting or lying. A HEPA filter on your vacuum aids removal of dander and fur. Using a regular vacuum simply stirs up the allergens. Over-the-counter allergy medications or allergy shots may help you breathe easier around cats.
The most accepted idea behind cat allergies is that humans are allergic to feline dander, saliva or urine. Dander is simply dead skin that sloughs off. Most cat-allergic people are also allergic to pollens or molds. There may be a genetic element to allergies, inherited from parents to children.
Signs in Adults
Common symptoms of cat allergies are itchy eyes; a runny nose; difficulty breathing; itchy, red skin; or a rash. Hives appear as large red dots or raised areas on the skin. The signs of allergies also mimic a cold: sore throat, stuffy nose and headache. People who are allergic to the fur or “hair” of the cat will have symptoms in the eyes, nose, skin, lungs or throat. The fur causes a runny, stuffy, and itchy nose or congestion, as well as wheezing, difficulty breathing and coughing. A painful or itchy throat can also appear. Washing your hands often helps keep this from spreading.
Signs in Children
Children's allergies tend to be more severe than adult allergies. Dander or fur makes their eyes itchy and watery. If, after petting the cat, they rub their eyes because of the irritation, they make the symptoms worse by spreading more of the dander into their eyes. During prolonged exposure to the animal, a child may develop symptoms similar to a cold, such as a stuffy nose or headache. Asthma-like symptoms also may appear, such as wheezing, coughing and congestion.