Living with Pet Allergies

A Guest Post by Michael Ravitsky of

Millions of Americans suffer from allergies on a regular basis, and pet dander is one of the most common allergens out there.  Unfortunately for many people with pet allergies, they either love their pet or they love a human that loves their pet!  This post will give a simple explanation as to what allergies are, what exactly pet dander is, and some simple steps you can take to help alleviate pet allergy symptoms.

In short, an allergy is when your body mistakes a relatively harmless substance for a dangerous pathogen or toxin.  Your body has very powerful capabilities to fight off infection and internal injury; sometimes you experience your immune system at work in the form of headaches, redness, swelling, runny nose, or watery eyes.  For reasons not completely understood yet, the body occasionally has a problem with certain substances.  Common allergens include pet dander, mold spores, pollen, and dust mite poop!

Say you or your friend is allergic to cats.  What exactly does this mean?  You know that you get the sniffles when cats are around, or even when a cat owner comes over and no cat is present, but why is this?  Well, pet dander is actually an animal’s version of dandruff; it is flakes of skin that rub off onto furniture or simply shed from the body.  These skin particles can either latch onto surfaces or get kicked up into the air, where they can remain floating for hours because they are so light.  Pet dander particles are typically just a few microns (millionths of a meter) across, which is many times smaller than the width of your hair.

The size and shape of pet dander makes it adhere to surfaces very well.  This includes smooth surfaces like walls and flooring but is especially bad with porous or soft surfaces, such as carpeting, rugs, bed sheets, clothing, soft furniture, stuffed animal toys, curtains, artificial plants, and pillows.  These materials are like Velcro for pet dander.  The simplest thing you can do to tackle your pet allergy symptoms is to start removing these things from your home.  Get rid of rugs, minimize keeping plush and soft materials out in the open, and even consider replacing carpet with hard flooring.

Another necessity is to clean all of your surfaces, including walls, furniture, and flooring.  I don’t just mean to dust, mop, and use wet wipes; you have to really get in there!  Use a strong HEPA vacuum to clean your flooring and get your soft furniture steam-cleaned every so often.  If you keep cushions or stuffed animals around the house, wash them as often as possible according to the instructions on the tags.  Keep clothing in a closed closet away from your pets and don’t reuse clothing.  If you sleep with your pet, you should launder or replace your bed sheets, pillowcases, and blankets every few days.

As a supplement to regular cleaning, you can look into getting a portable air purifier for your bedroom or living room.  A good air purifier will use a HEPA (High Energy Particulate Arresting) filter, which is capable of filtering out over 99.9% of particles larger than .3 micrometers that pass through.  There are also some large models which can install within your home’s air conditioning system.  For some examples and more information about air purifiers, see our Best Pet Air Purifiers page.

Michael Ravitsky is a business student and part-time small business owner.  He has experienced allergies and respiratory sensitivities for his whole life and is always searching for natural ways to alleviate symptoms and feel better overall.  He has put this passion into FactoryPure, a retailer of indoor air quality maintenance products.