Most allergies, especially common ones like peanuts and shellfish, have common misconceptions that make it harder for allergy sufferers to live on a daily basis. For example, parents might send peanut butter sandwiches to a peanut free classroom with the assumption that a small amount of exposure can’t be that bad when it could be deadly.
Pet allergies also have these myths or misconceptions that people don’t understand. Here are some common myths about animal allergies to know the truth about.
1. If an Animal Doesn’t Shed, You Won’t Have an Allergic Reaction
People often think that pet hair causes pet allergies. However, while pet hair can sometimes trigger a reaction, the allergy to pets is caused by an immune response to proteins that animals secrete. These proteins can be found on their skin, in their urine or saliva, and in other secretions.
Because hair isn’t usually the problem, a dog or cat that does not shed will not necessarily be better for a person who is allergic. There are some breeds of dog, for example, that are marketed as hypoallergenic, but people with dog allergies could still potentially get a reaction from one of these dogs. No dogs are truly allergen-free.
Before investing in a dog or cat that has been bred for its purported hypoallergenic traits, keep a similar animal in your home or visit someone who has one. This way, you won’t adopt an animal thinking it will be a solution only to need to re-home the animal later because you still suffer an allergic response.
2. If You’re Allergic to Cats, You’ll Also Be Allergic to Dogs
Dog and cats produce different allergens. Someone can only be allergic to cats, dogs, or another animal, like horses. Don’t assume that just because someone has a pet, they are exaggerating about an allergic response to a different animal.
3. You’ll Grow Out of an Animal Allergy
Many people believe that allergies are mostly a childhood illness. While people can often grow out of allergies of all types, you should not assume that you or someone else will.
For example, if your child is allergic to dogs, respect the allergy and try to reduce exposure for comfort and health. Your child might discover as a teen or young adult that their symptoms are reduced or that they aren’t present anymore. However, remember that symptoms can reappear throughout life for unknown reasons.
Don’t keep pets for the purpose of helping someone acclimate to an allergy. The presence of an animal in the home will not eventually cure someone of an allergic reaction. Some people have a pet allergy that remains constant through adulthood, and there is usually no way to predict who will experience a change and who will not.
4. Pet Allergies Aren’t as Serious as Food Allergies
Some of the symptoms of pet allergies and food allergies are similar. For example, after a petting a dog, you might get hives, just like somebody might get hives after eating macadamia nuts. Some pet allergies are mild (sneezing, watering eyes), but some can be serious (difficulty breathing, swelling) and require medical attention.
It’s unsafe for you (or anyone) to assume that someone with a pet allergy will just be a little bit uncomfortable if exposed to that animal. People who have asthma, for example, may have a full blown attack in the presence of certain types of animal dander.
While mild reactions can be managed with over-the-counter medications, pet allergies should be taken as seriously as other types of allergies, especially for people who already struggle with immune response problems.
For more information, contact us at Allergy & Asthma Centers.