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How Long Do Cat Allergy Symptoms Last and How to Manage Them
If you're one of the millions of Americans with a cat allergy, you know how miserable it can make you feel. But how long do cat allergy symptoms last?
For me, it depends on my level of exposure and how well I manage my environment. Here's what I've learned about living with pet allergies and how long do cat allergy symptoms last.
What is Cat Allergy?
People who have allergies to cats are at an increased risk of experiencing certain allergic reactions. These reactions can range from mild to severe.
About 2% of the population are allergic to cats, yet 1/3 of these have a cat at home.
Cat allergen is a protein found in cat saliva, skin, and dander. It can cause allergic reactions in some people who are sensitive to it.
Cat allergen may also be transferred to humans by touching cat fur.
The fastest and most common way to be exposed to allergens is by inhaling them. This can result in the particles being deposited in the lower and upper respiratory tracts, which triggers a reaction in those who are sensitive to it.
The severity of an allergic reaction to cats is determined by the number of allergens in the air and the level of sensitivity of the person.
An allergy is a reaction by the body’s immune system to a substance that is normally harmless.
The protein found in a cat’s fur and saliva is what causes allergic reactions in people. These particles are so small that they easily float in the air, and when inhaled can cause allergy symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes.
Cat Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms associated with a cat allergy include:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Itchy, watery, red eyes
- Itchy throat
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightening
People with cat allergies usually do not experience any symptoms until 15-30 minutes after exposure. Asthma attacks may also develop after 30 minutes of exposure to cats. Some individuals may notice their allergies getting worse after repeated exposures.
Cat allergy is common among people with asthma and a significant risk factor for ER visits with asthma.
Only 10% of a cat’s allergens are emitted through breath. The allergens are found in cat dander, saliva, exocrine glands, urine, and feces. Male felines produce higher levels of these proteins than females.
People who are allergic may notice their allergy rapidly worsening after coming into contact with this allergen.
How to Prevent Cat Allergen from Spreading
There are a few challenges associated with controlling an environment for a person with a severe cat allergy.
- Cat allergen is extremely difficult to get rid of.
- Cat allergen is so small that they stay airborne for a long time.
- Particles are less than 2.5 microns in diameter.
- Cat allergen sticks to walls and has been found even in homes that have never had a resident cat.
- Some patients have worse allergic reactions to certain feline breeds.
- The amount of shedding varies considerably even in the same cat.
Avoidance is the ideal type of therapy for allergy patients but is often difficult to implement.
Many people are reluctant to get rid of their cats, even if their allergies are severe. It's nearly impossible to completely remove a cat from a home.
Here are a few ways to reduce the level of cat allergen in your home.
- Remove the cat from your living space.
- If not possible, keep the cat outdoors.
- If living indoors, keep the cat out of the bedroom.
- Keep the house well ventilated to blow animal dander outside.
- Shampoo the cat every few weeks to remove allergen in cat fur.
- Keep the cat away from rugs, carpeting, stuffed animals, and upholstered furniture as cat allergen sticks to soft furnishings.
- Vacuum cleaning and air filtration can reduce airborne allergen by as much as 90%.
- Cover mattresses and pillows.
- Wash beddings often.
- Wear a face mask when brushing the cat or changing the litter.
- Wash your hands and change your clothes after touching a cat.
What Causes Cat Allergy?
Dander -- dead skin flakes -- is the main cause of cat allergies. Dander is almost invisible but can accumulate quickly as they land on walls, carpet, and furniture.
Cats are known to lick themselves a lot and the protein in their saliva can also trigger an allergic reaction. This explains why kittens are less likely to cause allergies as they do not self-groom as much as adult cats do.
How Long Do Cat Allergy Symptoms last?
Pet allergies are annoying for people who love animals and anyone else they come into contact with.
Animals that have fur can cause pet allergies, but cats and dogs are the most common animals to cause allergies. If avoiding animals is not possible or desired, allergy shots may be an option.
The symptoms of a pet allergy can persist even after the animals have been removed from a home. The allergens can remain in the home for many months or even years after.
Carpets can hold allergens like pet hair and pollen, so it’s important to clean them regularly.
A vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter will trap these particles, but you may need to replace your carpet if it becomes too dirty.
Fabric sofas can be cleaned, but other types of couches cannot.
After being exposed to an allergen, the initial reaction can last up to 2 weeks. Everyone is unique, though, and you may not notice any symptoms until the allergens are gone.
Other places aside from your home, such as at a friend’s house, can also increase and prolong your allergies. These places include zoos, animal shelters, vet clinics, and pet stores.
How Long Does Animal Dander Stay in Your Home?
After your pet has left the house, their fur and hair can cling to your furniture, clothes, and carpets. This can last for anywhere between four and six months.
Cat dander is more airborne than dog dander so they last longer.
Is It Possible for Pet Allergies to Go Away?
You may outgrow your allergies to animals, but it is not probable. Additionally, even if your allergies go away, they can come back again later in life.
Having a cat or dog won’t help your seasonal or year-round allergies. Some people find that their symptoms are even worse during certain times of the year, especially in the summer when animals are shedding more.
How to Treat Pet Allergies
The most effective treatment method for animal allergy is avoiding all contact with pets. If you cannot or will not do this, there are a few other options.
You can take antihistamines to help with itching and sneezing. You can also use a nasal spray or an inhaler to help with the congestion. If your allergies are severe, you may need to get shots from an allergist.
Allergy shot therapy involves receiving a weekly injection of an allergen over 3-10 years.
Another way to cut down on allergies is by creating a pet-free zone in your home. Use a high-quality air purifier to help reduce any dust or dander in the air.
If you can, keep animals outdoors and away from the house completely.
Homeopathy remedies, local honey, and essential oils can also offer some relief.
Taking vitamin C supplements can help support your immune system. However, always consult your doctor before taking any supplement.
Is There a Cure for Pet Allergies?
The only current cure for pet allergies is to receive regular injections of allergens. All other treatments only help to alleviate symptoms.
Most people who are allergic to pets never outgrow their allergies. They need to be very careful when they are around pets.
What Does Cat Allergy Look Like?
The most common symptoms of cat allergy are sneezing, coughing, itchy eyes, wheezing, hives, rash, and a runny or stuffy nose. Some people have severe allergic reactions to cats, and in extreme cases, this can lead to shortness of breath and a need for an asthma inhaler.
Can You Develop An Allergy to Cats?
Anyone can develop a cat allergy at any time. The reasons for this are unknown, but the treatment is similar to other allergies.
Can Pet Allergies Weaken Your Immune System?
People who are allergic to pets can experience weakened immune systems. If they do not treat their allergy, they may become more ill and have difficulty breathing.
Having allergies can have a major impact on your health. That's why it's so important to be aware of your immunity and not take it for granted.
Do Air Purifiers Work for Pet Allergies?
While air purifiers with true-HEPA filters can remove airborne pollutants, there are other ways to reduce the presence of animal dander such as regular vacuuming and steam cleaning.
What is the Best Medicine for Pet Allergies?
Antihistamines work to block the effects of allergy symptoms on your body. Over-the-counter medication is available, or your doctor can prescribe stronger medicine.
Nasal sprays and decongestants can help to reduce symptoms related to pet allergies. However, for those with more severe breathing problems, there are no good options available.
How long do cat allergy symptoms last? Everyone experiences allergies differently, so what works for me might not work for you. If you have a cat allergy, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor and figure out a plan that works for you. In the meantime, try your best to avoid exposure to cats and their dander, and hopefully, your symptoms will be short-lived!