Keep Your Cat: 5 Ways to Control Asthma, Itching and Allergies

 Q:  I have started getting an asthmatic reaction when I’m at home, and my  doctor thinks it’s my cat. The last thing I want to do is give him away.  What should I do? A.  This scenario is all too common: A person gets a chronic case of the  sniffles, itches, or shortness of breath. Or their child or partner  does. The doctor proclaims that that the cat (or dog) is to blame, and  should go. Unfortunately,  many allergy-sufferers act too swiftly and dump their pet at a local  animal shelter where the kitty or doggy goes from a warm home to a cold  cage in a scary shelter, and that pet is often killed just because an  owner gets a stuffed-up nose. Allergic  reactions often stem from exposure to a number of different triggers.  Cumulatively you may reach a threshold at which your asthma or sinuses  get aggravated by any and all of them. Often, if you reduce your  exposure to most of the triggers, you'll be able to tolerate the few  that remain. So, instead of dumping a beloved pet, take the following  steps to identify and eliminate other things that might be exacerbating  your symptoms.

 1. Try going dairy free.Although  we’ve grown up thinking that a glass of milk is a good thing, humans  are the only species who consume milk (and milk products) into  adulthood, and also the only species that consumes the milk of another  species. Perhaps not surprisingly, there is a high prevalence of lactose  intolerance (inability to digest milk properly) and allergies to milk  proteins (mucus forming after milk is consumed). If you eat dairy  products every day, you may not even realize that your constant  sinusitis or shortness of breath is due to phlegm in your throat caused  by what you eat. If you do eat dairy product regularly and you are an  allergy sufferer, it’s worth going dairy free for three or four weeks to  see if your symptoms subside. If you’re worried about missing out on  calcium or compromising your bone health, you needn’t be. You can get  plenty of calcium from other food sources. I’ve written more about ditching dairy and calcium-rich dairy-free foods.  

 2. Look for sulfite-free wine.Who  doesn’t love chilling out with a delicious glass of red or white wine?  People who get headaches or congestion from the sulfites that are used  to preserve the wine. Some people need only to take a sip before  symptoms kick in. Others may have a delayed response. If you are a wine  drinker and allergy-sufferer, it’s a good idea to see if you can connect  the two. Do symptoms flare up around the times when you’ve had some  wine? If so, look for sulfite-free or low-sulfite wines. Some, but not  all, organic wines are low in sulfites. I’ve written more about headaches caused by food and drink.


 3. Clear the air. Literally.If  you do have a cat or dog whose fur (or other allergens found in pet  saliva or skin dander) aggravates your symptoms, try using a simple air  purifier to rid the air of particles that you might otherwise breathe  in. These gizmos are low-priced, and you only need to replace the carbon  filter every couple of months to keep the air clean. (When you change  filters you’ll see all the collected dust that you would have otherwise  inhaled.) You will need one in each room. Using  a strong vacuum with a HEPA filter can help remove allergens from  furniture and carpets. With vacuums, invest in a high-quality machine  because the better made the product is, the less dust is let out of the  machine as it’s sucked in. Regular  pet baths can also control dander on fur. Of course, your cat may not  be thrilled by the idea. In that case, you can wet down a washcloth with  very warm, even hot, water, and rub it over Kitty. As long as it’s not  dripping, he or she shouldn’t notice the wetness because they’ll love  the heat. You can also try a product such as Allerpet for dogs and cats,  or DeMite for dust mites, to reduce allergens If  symptoms don’t subside, you can consider closing off the bedroom to  your pet. Reducing your exposure to potential pet allergens for 10 or so  hours at night may be enough to make your symptoms manageable.

 4. Change the sheets.Make  sure you change your bed linens regularly and wash them in super-hot  water when you do. And regularly wash curtains, throw pillows and vacuum  upholstered furniture. Dust mites on furniture and fabric can cause  shortness of breath when inhaled.  

 5. Shut the windows. 

 by Martica Heaner, PhD, MA, MEd for MSN Health