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Hypoallergenic Cats: Truths and Myths About Cat Allergies

Allergist Joseph T. Inglefield, MD, explains some well-known facts and disproves widespread misconceptions about cat allergy.

Allergies to cats are different. Poorly expressed does not cause severe inconvenience and leaves a chance to get a cat that will be acceptable for you. At the same time, it is important to figure out which information about the disease is true, and which has nothing to do with reality.

Breed Matters – True

According to the recommended list of breeds, the Siberian, Burmese, Russian Blue, and Sphynx are considered to be low-allergenic cat breeds.

The Length of the Coat is Important – a Myth

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, wool is only a carrier of allergens, not their source. The length of the coat and the intensity of shedding are irrelevant. Even hairless cats have allergens on their skin, saliva, and urine.

However, Dr. Inglefield believes that the less hair and dander in the house, the lower the concentration of the protein Fel d 1 – the main feline allergen. Cats lick their fur, saliva dries up, its particles fall into the air, and from there into the nasopharynx and lungs.

Allergenicity Depends on Color – an Unconfirmed Truth, an Uncontested Myth

On this score, the opinions of scientists differ. It is currently believed that cats with dark fur are more allergenic than cats with light fur. However, the exact reasons and data confirming this dependence have not yet been identified.

Much Depends on Care and Upbringing – True

Dr. Inglefield advises keeping cats out of the bedroom. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology also recommends brushing the animals regularly, and cleaning carpets in your home often and thoroughly with a dual-filter vacuum cleaner or microfilters, or get rid of them altogether.

It is also worth noting that modern allergy vaccination has proven itself well in combating the symptoms of cat allergy.

Only Domestic Cats Cause Allergies – a Myth

Dr. Inglefield says any feline, even lions and tigers, can cause allergies. Therefore, if a meeting with a domestic cat turns into torture for you, a career as a trainer and zoo worker, alas, is not for you.

Cat Allergy: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Judging by the number of complaints of patients with complaints to specialists, allergists, we can confidently say that cat allergy in adults is a common phenomenon.

Many people mistakenly believe that animal hair is the cause of allergies. But this opinion is erroneous. Wool is a carrier of allergen, but it itself is safe. An allergen that causes cat allergies in adults and children is a feline protein, traces of which remain on all objects that the animal has come into contact with. Naturally, the cat’s hair is a real “storehouse” of feline protein, which was the reason for the spread of not entirely accurate information about the allergy to the hair of cats, which in fact is not the root cause of this disease.

The cleanliness of cats for allergy sufferers, in this case, is rather a minus. Cats constantly lick their fur, leaving their protein traces on it. This wool then gets onto furniture, walls, floors, and clothing. A person prone to cat allergy even unnoticed contact with this coat, and the result is an allergic reaction of the body. Moreover, with increased sensitivity, the reaction can occur even when communicating with a person on whose clothes or skin there are traces of feline protein.

Symptoms

Consider how a cat allergy manifests itself. In fact, the manifestations of an allergic reaction can be of different types.

Symptoms of a cat allergy are of a respiratory nature:

  • nasal congestion and allergic rhinitis;
  • burning sensation and itching in the throat and nose;
  • coughing and sneezing;
  • dyspnea;
  • swelling of the nasopharynx.

Against the background of these symptoms, general weakness and even fever may occur.

The intensity of respiratory symptoms differs from person to person. In some, they appear after prolonged contact with a cat, while in others, an attack can begin literally when the animal appears.

Manifestations of an allergic skin reaction in cats:

  • the appearance of irritation and itching on the skin;
  • burning and itching;
  • rash, blistering, and redness.

Skin symptoms usually occur with direct contact with an animal. If an allergic reaction is expressed only in this way, then it will be enough for the patient to simply minimize the risks of their manifestation – it is enough to exclude contact with representatives of the feline.

Allergic manifestations of a food nature:

  • nausea;
  • pain syndrome in the stomach.

When the allergen gets into food, the symptoms can appear in this way – a general deterioration in the condition, the urge to vomit, and pain in the stomach. In this case, it is also important not to delay the visit to the doctor, so that the specialist has the opportunity to make the correct diagnosis as soon as possible.

Other symptoms of cat allergy:

  • headache;
  • lethargy and irritability;
  • the appearance of puffiness in the eye area, profuse lacrimation.

It should be noted that all of the listed symptoms are not unique and may indicate the development of another disease. Therefore, the key point is to accurately diagnose and determine the cause of the symptoms that have appeared.

When to See a Doctor?

If symptoms characteristic of cat allergy appear and in the absence of other visible reasons that can explain them, it is recommended to consult a specialist. Especially carefully you need to approach the situation if the child is allergic if it is difficult for him to breathe, if there is swelling of the larynx, the face is swollen. In this case, you need to immediately call an ambulance.

Allergy Diagnosis

Self-diagnosis and starting antiallergenic medication is the worst decision. Only a professional diagnosis in the clinic can accurately determine the cause of the symptoms. The fact is that often many other diseases that can be “started” are “disguised” as an allergy. Allergies can also pose a serious threat to the human body, lead to laryngeal edema and other consequences.

The main method for diagnosing cat allergies is through special medical tests. A blood sample is taken from the patient for analysis for the detection of immunoglobulin E, as well as skin tests.

Why is it not recommended to self-medicate? There are many cases where it was not the cat who caused the symptoms, although in a certain sense the animal played a role, which allowed us to draw false conclusions. The most common misdiagnosis options are:

  • an allergic reaction can be caused by pet supplies and care products (litter, shampoo for cats, cat food, etc.);
  • cats accustomed to walking on the street can bring other allergens on their fur (pollen of flowers, particles of mold, etc.);
  • infection from an animal with other diseases with similar symptoms (chlamydia, scabies, etc.).

Treatment

If the diagnosis has confirmed an allergy to cats, then the patient has several important decisions to make. Treatment for cat allergies is mainly about symptom relief, general relief, and prevention. It is impossible to completely eliminate the disease and, as with all types of allergies, the key is to eliminate contact with the allergen. Therefore, if a person suffers from allergies, but at the same time cannot imagine his life without a pet, then he will have to adjust his lifestyle and constantly take antiallergenic drugs.

Due attention will have to be paid to cleaning the apartment. It should be regular. Be sure to use a powerful vacuum cleaner that will remove wool from carpets, sofas.

Another option available is non-allergenic cats. There are also hypoallergenic cat breeds. This is not to say that the release of feline protein in animals of these breeds is completely absent. The allergen is released but in much smaller quantities. Therefore, depending on the degree of sensitivity in someone, it may not cause an allergic reaction at all, while in someone its manifestations will be insignificant.

Which cats do not cause high allergies? These include cats with dense curly hair, for example, representatives of the Cornish Rex breed. Due to the density of the coat, hair loss occurs less frequently and is not so widely spread throughout. But fluffy cats with a thick undercoat are definitely not recommended for people with a tendency to allergies. They shed easily, as a result of which wool is carried throughout the room and accumulates on interior items. Carpets, bedspreads, rugs, pillows and rugs, soft toys, and other items with a soft surface are especially dangerous from the point of view of the accumulation of cat hair.

A minimum of problems awaits owners of Sphynx cats. And to minimize the effect of the feline’s secreted protein, they need to be bathed regularly – on average 1-2 times a week.

Preventive Actions

If you have a desire to have a pet, it is recommended to empirically check the reaction of your body and household members for allergies. For example, visit acquaintances or friends who already have a cat or cat. It is better if the communication is prolonged, and not five minutes, since the allergic reaction may not appear immediately. If, after the experiments, signs of allergy were not observed, then it is possible with a high degree of probability to speak of its absence.

If you know that you are prone to an allergic reaction, but love for cats does not give you the opportunity to completely abandon the pet, then before you get a kitten, you must carefully choose the breed. Hypoallergenic breeds will greatly facilitate the life of an allergy sufferer.

But what if you already have a cat and have been diagnosed with an allergy later? In this case, to reduce allergy symptoms and maintain a normal state, the following preventive measures should be taken:

  • if possible, minimize direct contact with the animal;
  • take special antiallergenic drugs;
  • bathe the animal, and then comb the wool at least once a week (if possible, you should entrust this to household members who do not suffer from allergies);
  • if possible, remove as much as possible carpets, rugs, rugs, and other soft coverings that can accumulate wool;
  • regularly ventilate the premises;
  • do not leave personal items and items of your wardrobe in an accessible place for the animal.

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