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Pets are present in over half of all households and having a household pet is especially popular in the developed world, with cats and dogs the two most commonly chosen pets. However, allergies to material shed from a pets body can be a dampener for some.
Animal allergens are protein molecules shed by an animal that cause an allergic reaction in some people. While most people do not react to these molecules, those with an allergy may have an immune response that triggers an allergic reaction on encountering the allergen. Common allergens shed by pets in the house include saliva, fur, dead skin, urine and sebum.
Symptoms of pet allergies are similar to those of other allergic reactions and may occur after handling a pet or even just on entering a home where pets reside. Symptoms include:
There are several measures people can take to reduce the presence of pet allergens and minimize allergic reactions. These include:
If the animal is removed from the home due to potential allergies, the allergen still remains in the home for around six months or more.
Diagnosis of pet allergies is made based on details of the symptoms that manifest on exposure to pets. A skin prick test or radioallergosorbent test ((RAST) may also be used to test for a pet allergy in people who have more than one allergy.
When an allergic reaction occurs, long acting, non-seditative antihistamine or nasal sprays containing steroids can be used. Examples of antihistamines include levocetirizine, loratadine and azelastine. People who develop asthma may benefit from taking the leukotriene receptor antagonist montelukast.