Certain individuals experience allergic reactions owing to a protein called Fel d 1, which is present in the dandruff and saliva of cats. The following HealthHearty article describes the causes and symptoms of such cat allergies, as well as a few preventive measures for the same.
Cats are one of the most lovable pet animals to have around. Unfortunately, about 25% people suffer from cat allergies. Therefore, it is very important to be aware of the symptoms and treatment options of cat allergy, if you happen to be a cat owner.
Cat allergy occurs mainly due to the allergen Fel d 1, a protein molecule found in the dandruff and saliva of cats. The salivary glands and sebaceous glands produce these proteins. During cat grooming, when the cat licks its skin and fur, the allergen gets deposited on the fur, and may get attached to the airborne dust particles. Once these allergens are inhaled by humans, it may trigger allergic reactions.
As compared to dog allergens, the cat allergen is lighter, and can travel far and wide. It can penetrate deep into the lungs, and trigger allergies. The amount of Fel d 1 produced, differs for each individual cat. Also, male cats tend to produce more allergens than female cats.
It was believed, that only homes with cats as pets have these allergens. Scientists have found that this is not true, and even houses that never had a cat, do have a significant amount of cat allergens. This is due to an interesting concept called the personal cloud, which was discovered by environmental scientists. Each individual human or animal has a personal cloud of dust particles around them. This personal cloud travels along with them.
If the person is a cat owner or has met someone who owns a cat, he/she may acquire cat allergens in his/her personal cloud. So while traveling, unknowingly, cat allergens are passed on to other people. When a person is exposed to a high number of allergens, it may trigger the symptoms of cat allergy.
Symptoms of Cat Allergy
Fel d 1 can cause mild to severe reactions in humans. Many people may even develop chronic asthma. Symptoms generally appear about 15 minutes to 1 hour after exposure to the allergen. The common symptoms include:
- Watery, red eyes
- Itchy nose
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
- Tightening in the chest
- Wheezing and difficulty in breathing
One may suffer from allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and hay fever. The person may also suffer from delayed reactions like asthma attack, streaming nose, etc. One may even develop contact urticaria or hives, on the skin parts that come in contact with cat fur or saliva.
You cannot prevent cat allergens or cat dander, as they are airborne. However, you can try to minimize the occurrences by trying the following instructions. You need to brush the cat daily to remove the cat dander. If you are allergic to cat dandruff, it is wise to ask someone else to do it. You can use plain water to bathe your cat once in a week, and then reduce the frequency to once in a fortnight. Keep the cat fur free from fleas and mites, as the cats will not scratch, thus minimizing the release of cat allergens into the air.
If you cannot avoid a cat living around you, then you can install High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters. You should ventilate the rooms to reduce the cat allergens, dust levels and humidity. Clean your carpets, walls, soft furnishings, and bedding with a vacuum cleaner.
If you suspect allergy, then you should speak to your doctor about it. He/she may suggest the use of over-the-counter antihistamines like Claritin or Benadryl, or may even prescribe decongestants like Sudafed or Allegra-D.
The symptoms are similar to many other allergic reactions. So the doctor may run a test to be sure it is a cat allergy. You may not be able to cure your allergy, but there are many ways to avoid it. Speak to your doctor for the best course of action.