Sometimes joining the pet parent club means paying your dues in more than kitty litter and dog biscuits. If you brought home an adorable dog or cat but now you can’t stop sneezing or scratching your eyes, pet allergies are likely to blame. “People with pet allergies have oversensitive immune systems that react to harmless proteins in the pet’s dander, saliva or urine,” says Melanie Carver, vice president of community health and services at the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. For those who can’t bear to part with the pitter-patter of four little feet, here’s how to cope.
1. Block Off the Bedroom
The place where you count sheep should always remain pet-free so you can breathe easy. Although it may break your heart, have your pet sleep on their own bed in another room.
2. Invest in an Air Purifier
If you have central heating or air conditioning, “adding a HEPA filter can help remove pet allergens from the air,” says Carver. You can also place an air purifier in the room you inhabit the most and run it at least four hours per day. Before buying, check how much area or square footage the filter can clean to ensure that it’s right for the space.
3. Clean House
Because dander sticks easily, it’s important to wash your pet’s toys and blankets frequently. If you have carpeting, use a vacuum that can reach small corners. Clutter can also trap allergens, so keep surfaces clear.
4. Groom Your Pet
Remove dander and reduce loose, flyaway hair by brushing fur once or twice a week and bathing pets weekly. Try to appoint someone else to grooming duty so your allergies aren’t triggered.
5. Consider Medicine
“The type of medication varies depending on the symptoms,” says Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist with the Allergy & Asthma Network. For mild symptoms, get relief with over-the-counter allergy products like antihistamines.
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