Animal Dander Allergies


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A common cause of allergies is a sensitivity to the dead skin cells, otherwise known as animal dander, shed by a variety of different animals. Household pets such as cats, dogs, hamsters, mice and rats are the more readily identifiable causes of dander allergies. Any animal, however, can spark an allergic response if it sheds skin cells. Examples would include horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep and even birds. As is the culprit in many allergic responses, it is a specific protein found in the old shed cells that cause the reaction within the immune system which leads to the display of the allergic response symptoms. When the cells become airborne and are ultimately breathed in, the body can react by developing itchy eyes and nose, sneezing and coughing, feelings of restricted breathing, wheezing, hives or a rash. It is possible to develop symptoms with regards to one animal and not another. Animals are individuals too, and can have different hair lengths and skin types. This will influence the amount of skin cells shed regularly.

Living with an Allergy to Animal Dander

The most obvious solution to controlling allergic reactions based on animal dander is to simply avoid being around animals. In many cases this is not practical, however. In situations where a family pet is involved there are a range of steps that can be taken to reduce the level of dander exposure.

  • Keep your pet regularly bathed and groomed.
  • Dispose of any hair in an outside rubbish bin.
  • If possible, keep the pet outside.
  • If the pet lives in the house, limit the areas it is allowed access to.
  • Designate ‘animal free’ rooms (therefore dander free).
  • Do not allow pets on the furniture or in any of the bedrooms.
  • Try and limit the pets contact with clothing as dander is easily transferable and can be readily spread.
  • Wash any clothes that might have been in contact with a pet with a special allergy relief washing detergent.
  • Employ air purification methods to help keep airborne particles in the home to a minimum.
  • Use protective eye wear and gloves when handling a pet.
  • Try and remember to wash your hands if you do touch your pet, before you have the chance to touch your face or hair to avoid accidental exposure.
  • As with dust mites, controlling the amount of dust (which will contain the dander) in the home will greatly reduce the occurrence and severity of any allergic responses to dander.
  • Carpets, sofas and chairs will need to be regularly cleaned.
  • Bedding needs to be changed weekly in case accidental transfer of dander occurred.
  • Furniture will need to remain as dust free as possible.

Controlling Allergies to Animal Dander

Over the counter medicines are available for allergy sufferers, but it is better to see your GP in order to get a proper diagnosis and treat your allergy. If an animal dander allergy is suspected, it is possible to undergo skin prick or patch testing to pinpoint the exact animal responsible for causing the allergy. Once established, oral treatment can begin for less severe cases. Your GP may also recommend a course of immunotherapy if the allergic response is more severe. This simply entails a series of injections that contain a small amount of the animal allergen. Over the course of the injections, the immune system will become increasingly less sensitive to the allergen (called desensitisation) and allergic responses will eventually no longer occur, or occur in a highly reduced manor to the initial allergic response.


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