Cats are some of the most adored pets that humans own- they’re cute, fluffy, and fun to play with. Cat allergy symptoms, on the other hand, are not so fun. Allergies in general are a reaction in the body caused by a person’s immune system trying to protect the body from a foreign, and oftentimes harmless, substance referred to as an allergen. While most people believe that a cat’s fur is the offending party, proteins from the cat’s dander, or flakes of dried skin, is the most likely cause. Other sources of allergy-causing proteins are the cat’s saliva and urine. An allergy to proteins generated from a cat’s body is a direct cat allergy. Cats may also indirectly cause an allergic reaction to a person by carrying pollen, mold and other allergens from the outdoors in its fur.
Coughing, sneezing and wheezing are the most common symptoms of a cat allergy. Hives or rashes on the face and chest are also frequent symptoms reported by people with cat allergies. An allergy can also cause red, itchy eyes or a runny nose. Sometimes, these symptoms can often be confused with the common cold due to the symptoms’ similarities. There are, however, specific tests that can confirm a person has an allergy to cats. Confirmation from a doctor is helpful since the cat may not actually be the direct cause of the allergy, and getting rid of the pet may not be necessary. A skin or blood test will help confirm the cause of an allergy. A doctor may also request a patient to try living without the suspected cause for a few weeks to see the effects on allergy symptoms.
A person can take steps to cope with cat allergy symptoms so his furry feline friend can still be kept within the home. The first step that should be taken is to bathe the cat in order to remove the offending allergens from the cat’s fur. Another precautionary step is to select a cat that produces less allergens than others. Some studies have shown that less allergens are produced by female cats. Certain breeds of cats, such as Siberian cats, are also thought to produce less allergens than other breeds. Producing less allergens, however, does not guarantee relief from allergy symptoms due to the possibility of indirectly induced allergies.
If cat allergy symptoms still persist, medical treatments are available to help provide relief. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are often effective in controlling symptoms, but these do not address the allergy’s root cause, which is the allergic person’s immune system. A person who is adamant about having a pet cat can find relief with immunotherapy. With this treatment, a patient is regularly given injections of a small amount of the allergen to slowly build a tolerance and reduce the immune system’s response. Immunotherapy has been known to take a significant time to become effective, in some cases taking up to five years.
It is never a good idea to ignore cat allergy symptoms. Out of control cat allergy symptoms make life difficult and may lead to complications such as asthma. It is always best to consider giving up the cat and to consult a doctor if symptoms persist.