What Is Pet Dander and How Can I Get Rid of It?
Owning pets is a joy for many people, but to some, pet ownership comes along with side effects such as sneezing, watery eyes, coughing, and a runny nose.
That’s right—dogs and cats cause allergic reactions in some unlucky pet owners. While severe allergies might necessitate not owning pets at all, those with mild and moderate allergies can benefit from controlling the allergens and, in some cases, taking medication.
What most people are allergic to is their pet’s dander, which is made of tiny flecks of dead skin. Read on to learn about some ways to reduce pet dander in your home so you and your guests can enjoy sniffle-free snuggle time with your furry friends.
1) Groom Your Pet
The best way to keep dander under control is to properly groom your pet. This process will remove a lot of the dead skin flakes that you are allergic to. If you cannot groom your pet comfortably, take them to a groomer or ask a non-allergic friend to help. A monthly bath will help cut down on the allergens present in your home as well. You can use a pet shampoo specially formulated to help control dander, or you can use a mild baby shampoo. However, do not use shampoo that is meant for children or adults on your pet; it is bad for their skin, and skin irritation will only increase the amount of dander falling off of them.
2) Keep Your Pet Out of the Bedroom
Another way to control the pet dander in your home for the purposes of avoiding allergic reactions is to keep the pet out of the bedroom of the person who is allergic. Yes, it might appeal to you to allow your cat or dog to cuddle in your bed, but this exposes you to dander all night long, making for missed sleep and miserable mornings. Instead, get your pet their own bed, which you keep either in a common area of the home (such as the living room) or in the bedroom of someone who is not allergic. Another option is to put your dog in a crate overnight. If you make it cozy with blankets, it will be just like a den—which dogs love.
3) Clean Your House
While bathing your pet will help reduce the amount of dander that is produced, it won’t eliminate it entirely, so it will continue to fall off of your pet and settle on surfaces. Regular dusting will help keep it out of your respiratory tract, where it causes the sneezing and coughing. Get into the habit of dusting frequently, sweeping or vacuuming daily, and washing your floors. Most of the dander will be in your carpet, so in addition to vacuuming frequently, you should steam clean the carpets once or twice per year. Another option is to replace your carpeting with hard floors (wood, laminate, or tile). This will allow you to more effectively remove dander and hair from the floor.
4) Filter Your Air
If you have central air conditioning and heating, it is important to change out the filters on a monthly basis or even more frequently. Be sure to dust the intake vents well; removing the dander from these vents will prevent it from entering the air conditioning system in the first place. Also, dust the vents on the ceiling or near the floorboards, as they will likely catch more dander. When you vacuum, be sure to use a HEPA-grade filter. This will catch tiny particles and keep them out of the air. It is better to vacuum hard floors than to sweep, particularly if you have this type of filter, because it will remove more of the small pieces of dander.
5) Try Pet Dander Spray or Wipes
You can also use sprays or wipes that are formulated to neutralize pet dander. This is a great option to use between baths or if you find out that a friend who is allergic to pets is coming to your house. Simply spray your pet and rub them down to remove excess dander, or if you are using wipes, just wipe down your pet.
6) Wash Your Hands, Hair, and Laundry Often
Simply keeping dander off your body, hair, and clothing can help minimize symptoms. Always wash your hands after touching your pet, and wash your hair daily to remove your pet’s dander from the strands. Wash laundry after each wearing; while you might not think to wash a sweater or sweatshirt after wearing it once, it could be holding on to pet dander and making your allergy symptoms worse each time you wear it without washing.
7) Other Solutions for Pet-Allergic People
If, despite your best efforts, you are still reacting to your dog or cat, all hope is not lost. You can talk to your doctor about allergy medications that you would take on a daily basis to help your body stop reacting to the dander.
While short-living antihistamines will work, longer-acting medications that last 24 hours are more effective and less disruptive to your daily life. Another option is allergy shots. These are given by an allergist in most cases, and they help desensitize you to the pet dander.
While this is a good long-term solution for many, they don’t work for everyone, so it is important to talk to your doctor about whether they would be right for you.
Most people who have mild or moderate allergies can tolerate their pets by following the suggestions listed above. Do what you can to minimize the amount of dander in your home and see if it makes your symptoms better.