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Controlling Pet Allergens

Topic Overview

All warm-blooded pets, such as cats, dogs, birds, and rodents, have dead skin cells (animal dander) and make urine or stool. These can all trigger asthma symptoms, such as wheezing or coughing, or another allergic reaction, such as the rash of atopic dermatitis or the stuffy nose of allergic rhinitis. Substances that trigger these reactions are called allergens.

Although there is no strong evidence that reducing animal dander in your home will reduce symptoms of asthma or allergy, the following steps may be helpful.

  • Keep your pet outside of the house or at least out of your bedroom. Keep your pet in areas of the home that have hard floors that are easier to clean than carpeted floors.
  • At least once a week, clean birdcages, rodent cages, or areas where pets sleep.
  • Dust and vacuum often. If you can, do this when the person who has an allergy or asthma is not at home. Use a static cloth for dusting, and use a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, which helps keep dust off carpets and floors and out of the air.
  • Keep air registers closed if you have a pet. This will reduce the amount of animal dander moving through the house. If this isn't possible, close the register only in the room in which you want to reduce the dander.
  • Do not allow your pet on carpets or upholstered furniture.
  • Wash regularly any rugs, pillows, pet beds, or other items the pet has contact with.

People who are allergic to small rodents, such as mice or gerbils, can sometimes be allergic to a substance in the animal's urine as well as its dander. If you are allergic, have other family members clean the litter box. Or keep your pets outside your home in a garage or shed.

Consider finding your pet a new home if your symptoms are severe. You will have to think about how important your pets are to you versus how bad your allergy symptoms are. You will also have to think about how happy or well-behaved a pet will be if it is kept outdoors and away from you.

Even after you remove a pet, it may take many months before the change has a noticeable effect. You may also need to remove items that the pet slept on or was often around.

Adults spend one-third of their time and children spend half of their time in their bedrooms, so it is important that you take steps to prevent allergens in this room.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rohit K Katial, MD - Allergy and Immunology
Last Revised June 17, 2013

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