How Do I Know If I Am Allergic to Cats?

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Allergic reactions to cats are triggered by proteins present in their saliva, urine and dander. Any and all felines give off allergens that can potentially lead to allergic symptoms in people, no exceptions. Typical signs of allergic responses to cats are wheezing, sneezing and hives.

Common Signs of Cat Allergies

If you're hypersensitive to the allergens a cat releases into the environment, you may experience telling symptoms that can be anywhere from subtle to intense. Possible symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion, which sometimes leads to facial aching
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Watery eyes
  • Eye itching or redness
  • Skin redness
  • Hives
  • Skin rash

If you're extremely sensitive to feline allergens, you may experience these effects minutes after going near a cat or after petting one. If you're asthmatic, being close to a cat can sometimes bring on major asthma attacks. These allergies can even bring on chronic asthma in some asthma sufferers.

Cat Allergies Diagnosis and Treatment

Symptoms can be helpful hints regarding cat allergies, but only a doctor can confirm whether you are indeed suffering from them. Schedule an appointment with an allergist as soon as you begin experiencing symptoms. She may perform a skin-prick test on you. This involves putting a tiny sample of a cat allergen on your skin and then assessing it for indications of allergic response -- think redness and swelling. Blood tests can also often be useful for confirming cat allergies in individuals.

If the doctor confirms your cat allergies, she'll determine which management option is most suited to your needs. Common cat allergy treatment options include immunotherapy, corticosteroids, antihistamines, leukotriene modifiers and cromolyn sodium. The doctor may even suggest use of a decongestant spray that's available over-the-counter. Although numerous effective choices are available for managing cat allergies, nothing beats staying away from the actual sources of allergens -- cats. That's not always practical, however.

Reducing the Discomfort of Cat Allergies

If you own a cat and wish to minimize your allergic symptoms and resulting discomfort, the following strategies can be extremely helpful.

  • Frequent vacuuming using a central or high-efficiency vacuum
  • Frequent home cleaning while covering your face with a dust and pollen mask
  • Using hot water to routinely wash bedding
  • Opening windows frequently to encourage air circulation
  • Limiting the cat's access to only select rooms in your residence
  • Prohibiting the cat from going on furniture
  • Meticulous hand washing with soap after direct contact with the cat and his belongings
  • Bathing the cat a minimum of once weekly
  • Daily brushing of the cat's coat by someone in your household who isn't allergic
  • Using an efficient HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) cleaner in the home
  • Cleaning your air conditioner filters regularly

Tip

  • Cat allergens don't disappear instantly after a cat leaves a setting. They can remain weeks or months. Diligent cleaning can speed up the allergen removal process.

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