You may have heard anyone claiming to be “allergic to cats” at least once. Actually, it does not matter how sensitive you are – you cannot be allergic to animals. Moreover, few people know that even claiming to be allergic to cat hair is incorrect. As a matter of fact, neither cats nor their fur cause sneezing, red eyes and itching. What makes allergic people react in this way to cats is a protein contained in cats saliva and sebaceous glands: the Fel d 1.
Then, what exactly does it mean to suffer from allergies? Allergies are nothing more than an immune system disease. They occur when the immune system tries to defend the body from substances that are not harmful to humans, but which it mistakes for allergens.
Fel d 1 itself – a substance found in cats saliva and hair that triggers a reaction in allergic people – is a protein harmless to the human organism. However, the immune system of allergic people is activated as soon as they come into physical contact with the animal. Sometimes it may even be enough for the allergic person to be in a room where a cat has left its hair.
Cat allergies are both contact and respiratory allergies. Their symptoms are similar to those of the most common respiratory allergies: red eyes, runny nose, excessive tearing, frequent sneezing, itching and – in most serious cases – also urticaria and bronchial asthma.
If, while reading these symptoms, you recognize yourself in the description, you may be allergic to cats. If so, how can you handle it? How can you tell whether rhinitis and sneezing are symptoms of a normal seasonal cold or a real cat allergy? How long does it takes to occur? Here is a guide that will give you all the answers you need.
Allergy to the cat: most common symptoms
Cat allergies can cause several different reactions. Skin and respiratory symptoms are most common when allergic people come into contact with cats or even when they find themselves in a room with cat hair. But what exactly are the consequences of cat allergies?
First things first: even if you have these symptoms, it does not necessary mean that you are allergic to cats. Many allergens, in fact, are responsible for such symptoms. Therefore, you should first make sure that it is not a normal seasonal flu or an allergy to some other allergen. Fortunately, it is possible to obtain the necessary answers by contacting a doctor and carrying out some specific tests.
For example, the RAST Test – which stands for radioallergosorbent test – is a general test by which blood is analysed to identify substances that create an allergic reaction. Another generic blood test similar to the Rast Test is the Prist Test. Again, the purpose of the test is to check from a starting blood sample which substances can be identified as allergens.
A third useful way of testing whether you are allergic and to which substances is the provocation test. This kind of procedure should be carried out only if strictly necessary and if prescribed by your doctor, because it involves a high risk of adverse and unwanted reactions, which could even be very serious. During the test, the allergy-causing substance is administered directly to the eyes, nose and even bronchi. The patient is then kept under observation and, depending on the reactions of his body, the doctor determines whether he is allergic or not.
There are also more specific tests for more accurate results. In the case of food or inhalation allergies (such as Fel d 1), the most suitable test is the Prick Test. During the test, a drop of allergen extract is placed on the skin of the forearm and light pressure is applied with a small needle to ensure that the substance penetrates the skin and is completely absorbed by it. After about half an hour the result will be visible directly to the naked eye. Based on the degree of skin redness – and any bubbles that may have arisen near the allergen drop – it will be possible to determine whether you are allergic or not and, if so, the degree of allergy to that specific substance.
If you have done the necessary tests and have found yourself allergic to cats, you should be aware of the fact that symptoms and treatments may vary. It all depends on the degree of your allergy and on how your body reacts to it. However, these are the most common symptoms:
- Conjunctivitis: like normal conjunctivitis, cat allergies may cause swollen, red and excessively watery eyes.
- Itching and redness: in case of direct contact with cat hair or immediately after being licked by a cat, the affected area may redden and an annoying general itching may occur.
- Breathing problems: runny nose and frequent sneezing are the most common symptoms of inhalation allergies such as Fel d 1, even in people who do not have a particularly severe allergy.
If cat allergy is particularly acute, the respiratory and skin symptoms occur in a more severe form. In such cases, allergic people may have to face serious health problems such as attacks of bronchial asthma, hives or dermatitis.
Cat allergy can cause dermatitis
Cat allergies are characterized by respiratory symptoms, which often go with skin symptoms, such dermatitis.
When it comes to allergies, contact dermatitis is the most common form of dermatitis. Those actions with which the cat shows affection such as licking and rubbing against its owner may be very dangerous for allergic people.
Harmless irritation, which may represent a symptom for those who are only slightly allergic, can turn into a serious and annoying skin inflammation caused by cat allergy. Such inflammation may provoke bubbles, erythema, blisters and even ulcers.
Fortunately, allergic reactions of such magnitude are not very common. If you experience such symptoms after having been in contact with a cat, you should consult an allergist (or dermatologist): only he can explain to you how to deal with it and how to solve this unpleasant situation.
Can Cat Allergy pass?
Dogs are considered “man’s best friends”, yet many more Italian families prefer a cat as their pet. They are loved for their sweet but independent nature. Welcoming a cat in your home means having the company of a trusted friend, without having set commitments such as having to walk him out – as you would have to do with a dog.
Cat allergies are one of the main reasons that stop people from adopting a cat. Choosing a pet that may as well be a walking allergen that triggers symptoms and allergic reactions doesn’t sound like a good idea. Yet, there are some good practices which could allow even allergic people to live with a cat:
- Sterilization or Castration: it has been scientifically proven that cats, as a result of these operations, produce much less Fel d 1 – which is perceived as an allergen by allergic people. Therefore, if you suffer from cat allergy, you can opt for these solutions in order to stay with your furry friend without risking serious consequences.
- Dedicate precise areas to your cat: limiting the places where your cat can stay by not letting him on your bed or near your pillow is a precious rule for those who suffer from allergies but cannot give up having a kitten.
- Wash and brush your cat: as already explained, you are not allergic to cat hair, but to the allergen contained in the saliva on it, since cats clean themselves by licking their fur. Washing your cat frequently will make its hair harmless to your immune system.
Claiming that cat allergy may pass might be quite an overstatement. However, what is sure is that it is possible for allergic people to develop a state of immunological tolerance – or at least a reduction in the degree of allergy: this may happen in case of long-term exposure to doses of the allergen in childhood, but it may turn up to be quite risky.
How to Treat Cat Allergies
In case of cat allergy, you should not underestimate the importance of treating and controlling your body’s reactions to it. Before deciding how to put an end to your symptoms, you should first be aware of the degree of the allergic reaction.
When it comes to cat allergies, there are specific procedures you can follow in order to prevent infected hairs from spreading throughout your house. Actually, you just need to follow some common hygiene rules: avoid letting your cat on your bed, disinfect or change the bedding periodically, always keep the carpets clean (as they are more likely to fill up with hair), wash your cat as often as possible, use air purifying products and, above all, always wash your hands after touching your cat.
Moreover, there are pharmacological or homeopathic remedies which may help you tackle cat allergies. You may also choose to opt for immunotherapy, which, together with pharmacological treatments, is the only permanent solution for those who are allergic to cat hair but do not want to give up living with this adorable pet.
Homeopathic Remedies for Cat Allergies
As we have mentioned before, if you want to overcome the problems connected to cat allergy, you may opt for natural remedies as well as pharmacological therapies, such as antihistamines.
In case of cat allergy, common natural homeopathic remedies are the intake of syrups or tablets that can block the symptoms of allergic reactions. These dietary supplements are absolutely natural and guarantee a minimization – if not a total reduction – of allergic reactions.
However, it is important to point out that finding solutions and remedies against allergic reactions is not the only way to go. You should also do your best to prevent them by following simple hygiene practices, both for yourself and your cat.
Cat Allergy Symptoms in Children
Cat allergies are a very common problem in children, whose immune systems often categorizes animal hair as a potential allergen.
The allergen Fel d 1 triggers in children the same reactions as in adults. However, what are minor symptoms in adult subjects, may be much more dangerous when experienced by the little ones, especially by newborns.
Children, especially when they are still very young, are not able to recognize the symptoms caused by allergies and therefore cannot act accordingly. Before welcoming a pet in their home, it is up to the parents to make sure that their child is not allergic to any substance produced by pets by subjecting him to appropriate medical tests.
Moreover, parents must be able to recognize the symptoms caused by allergies – such as skin and respiratory reactions – and be ready to intervene before the situation escalates.