Allergy-related symptoms can occur after you are around certain animals. These substances are usually found indoors and do not cause symptoms for most people. Allergies occur when the immune system over-reacts to substances (allergens) that are usually harmless.
When a person with allergies breathes in an allergen, the body releases histamine and other chemicals as part of the immune response. This causes itching and swelling, mucus production, and in serious cases, hives and rashes, as well as other symptoms. Symptoms vary in severity from person to person.
Most environmental allergens contact the skin or eyes, or are inhaled. Therefore, most symptoms affect the skin, eyes, or the breathing passages. People who are allergic to certain animals are rarely allergic to the animals’ fur or feathers. They are actually allergic to proteins produced on the skin (dander) that the animal sheds. These proteins are also found in the animal’s saliva and urine, particularly cats. You can come into contact with animal saliva if the pet licks you, if you touched the pet after it has groomed itself, or if you touch an object that the animal has recently licked or chewed. Animals often roll around in the grass and leaves, and can carry pollens and molds in their fur or hair.
- Itching of the nose, eyes, throat, or skin
- Sinus pressure
- Difficulty breathing-can trigger asthma
- Redness in the eyes
- Runny nose
Exams and Tests
The doctor will take a detailed medical history and ask you questions about your symptoms. He will also do a physical exam. Allergy testing is done to see identify the specific allergens that are causing your symptoms. Skin testing is the most common and useful method.
The best treatment is to avoid being around the animals to which you are allergic. If possible, keep pets outside. If pets are allowed indoors, keep them out of bedrooms, off upholstered furniture, and off carpets. Frequent bathing and grooming of the pet (preferably by someone who is not allergic to the animal) may help. It is best to not sleep with the pet or have them in the bedroom.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are occasionally recommended if the substance you are allergic to cannot be avoided and if symptoms are hard to control. Allergy shots have been proven to help prevent further allergies from developing and may prevent asthma. It is an effective treatment for allergic asthma as well.