Anybody who owns a pet understands just how frustrating pet hair can be – especially within the home of allergy sufferers. Home owners go to the extent of vacuuming, dusting and cleaning, only to see their efforts go unrewarded.
An estimated 10% of the entire population are allergic to animals and even minimal exposure to discarded fur in the home can be enough to trigger a reaction. Factoring into account that 70% of households own a dog or a cat and you can truly understand the extent of this problem and how important it is to minimise exposure.
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What Causes Pet Allergies?
Fur, skin flakes, saliva and urine from any kind of animal can trigger allergic reactions. Typically this is sneezing, running eyes and nose and feeling wheezy. Even feathers and droppings from birds increase the total number of allergens that a sufferer is at risk of exposing themselves to.
Past research has revealed that animal hair itself is not a significant allergen – the fur does, however, act as a collection point for pollen, dust, mould and any other allergens the hair has caught. Pet hair length has also been disproved to have a direct relationship to the amount of allergens it produces, invalidating the belief that a non-allergenic breed exists.
It’s surprising to note that allergens are also found (in lesser amounts) to be within places where pets have never been present. Pet free workplaces, schools and public buildings can be sources of allergens from pet hair, mainly due to its tendency to stick to human clothing and other soft materials and therefore be effectively transported anywhere the person goes. Once hair has become attached to carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture or clothing it can remain there for very long periods of time. Unless certain cleaning techniques are used the hair can remain within a home for 6 months or more.
Controlling Pet Allergies
Before you embark on a rigorous regime to remove pet allergens from your home, you should ensure that your pet is the cause of your allergic reactions. The easiest way to do so is to remove yourself or the allergic person from the pet for a week to see if their symptoms improve. It is also worth considering contacting a doctor for further testing.
The tried and tested method of reducing pet allergies is avoidance. The best solution may mean the loss of the family pet to another home. Do note, however, that the allergen can still remain in your house for a further 6 months.
If you choose to keep the pet there are two main criteria of allergen avoidance that should be followed; isolating pets and keeping a clean environment.
Pets should be kept out of as many rooms as possible or even outdoors. This limits the spread of the allergens around the house and allows a “safe zone” for the allergy sufferer. Pets should also have limited contact with household furniture. Don’t touch the animals either! Those suffering from allergies should resist, or lower the amount of physical contact they have with the animal, no matter how adorable they are. Allergens can be picked up from fur, skin flakes and saliva.
Ideally litter boxes should be placed in an area that is unconnected to the rest of the household’s air supply and sufferers should avoid coming into contact with them. Any contact you have with pets or litter boxes should be done so wearing protective clothing. Removing and wash any garments of clothing you’re wearing after touching or playing with your pet will also reduce the chances of triggering an attack. It goes without saying that you should also wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
Keep Your Environment Clean
Houses where pets roam every room should be cleaned as often as possible. Using a damp cloth on surfaces that collect hair, such as blinds, tables and lampshades is often effective at removing hairs. A soot sponge does a similar job to this and work dry as they are chemically treated to absorb dust and dirt into their pores. Also consider using a simple lint roller to pick up hair on soft fabrics such as cloth or suede.
If your house contains a lot of carpet flooring it’s worthwhile vacuuming several times a week to keep allergens at bay. A High-Efficiency Particle Air (HEPA) [highlight-yellow]vacuum cleaner[/highlight-yellow] filters out the hair to stop it being blown around your house. Those with wooden or other hard floors are best off using an electrostatic mop to capture the hair.
By having a house containing air conditioning or heating you are unwittingly spreading allergens with the air flow around your house. Installing an air purifier and running it for a couple of hours a day can do a lot to reduce the amount of allergens being spread around your home.