When Jack's parents came to see me, they were concerned that their new pet cat of only a 5 months was now causing allergy symptoms. He had never had problems previously that they were aware of around animals but now he requiring anti-histamines daily to help manage his chronic hives, runny nose and red watery eyes after playing with the cat. His skin prick test was positive to cat dander. The difficult question of, "how much do you love this cat?" is an unavoidable and necessary conversation to have to parents and pet owners when it's confirmed their pet is causing them to be sick. It is important that those concerned about cat allergies know their options.
Cat allergy is the most common of pet allergies.
The cat allergen is produced within the salivary and sebaceous glands, and as a result found mainly in cat saliva and skin flakes. As fastidious groomers, cats deposit the allergen on their fur when licking themselves.
The cat allergen binds itself to hairs, dust particles and around the home. The allergens become airborne as microscopic particles which when inhaled into the nose or lungs, can produce allergic symptoms. As all cats have sebaceous glands, all breeds of cat can potentially cause allergies (ASCIA, 2010).
The cat allergen is quite pervasive and has been known to remain within soft furnishings, such as carpets, lounges and mattresses even after a cat has been removed from the home. Cat allergens can persist within carpets for up to 6 months, and mattresses for up to 5 years.
Manifestations of Cat Allergy
Upon entering a room with a cat, typically someone allergic to cats can develop:
Immediate symptoms of allergic rhinitis - sneezing, runny nose, blocked nose
Wheeze, cough or shortness of breath.
Symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis - watery, itchy eyes.
Hives which is a red, itchy rash at the site where the individual has come into contact with the cat fur or saliva.
Worsening of eczema
Perennial rhinitis on continual exposure.
How is Cat Allergy diagnosed?
Cat allergy can be diagnosed with Skin Prick Allergy Testing or Cat-allergen specific RAST blood test and a history consistent with cat allergy.
collective.care Bella Vista performs Allergy Skin prick testing for pet dander which is bulk billed.
What can be done to avoid exposure to the Cat Allergen?
- Daily grooming of the cat to remove loose hair and dander.
– Bathing of the cat weekly to remove the surface allergen.
– Avoid fleas/mites that may cause the cat to scratch as this is where dander comes from
– Restrict the cat to as few rooms in the house as possible, preferably without carpet or fabric furniture.
– Ensure the house is well ventilated by opening windows and utilising an exhaust fan, to encourage air exchange and decrease airborne allergen.
– Wash hands and change clothing after contact with the cat.
– Wear a facemask when brushing the cat, cleaning or changing the litter tray.
- invest in an air purifier.
What can be done to treat Cat Allergy?
For some, simply avoiding cats or minimizing their exposure to cats is sufficient to manage the allergy. However, for others a non-sedating anti-histamine can be taken prior to visiting homes with cats.
For those whom wish to continue to be around cats, immunotherapy (desensitization) is an option to reduce sensitivity to cats for the long term.
Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy [ASCIA]. 2010. Pet allergy. Accessed August 17, 2015, http://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/aer/infobulletins/2010pdf/AER_Pet_Allergy.pdf