Cat Allergies

Published: February 5, 2012

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Overview

About one-tenth of the population of the United States has some sort of pet allergy, with twice as many of them having cat allergies and dog allergies. Many people believe that the cat's fur is the main cause for all the reactions, so they try to adopt certain types of cats that shed less or have shorter hair. But the type or length of fur isn't really the issue, because cat allergies are caused by the body's reaction to proteins in the cat's saliva, skin and urine.

Types

The different types of cat allergies are as follows:

  • Inhalant Cat Allergy - These allergies are common to both cats and people.
  • Flea Allergy - This is the most common flea allergy that is caused by the saliva of the flea.
  • Cat Skin Allergy - The cat dander allergy is often likened with a cat skin allergy.
  • Cat Food Allergies - This allergy is caused by proteins in the processed foods that animals ingest.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cat allergies usually appear within minutes, but can it can also appear up to 3 hours later. The symptoms include:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Hives and rashes on the chest and face
  • Itchy and irritated red eyes
  • Red skin where a cat may have licked, bitten or scratched
  • Itchy nose and sneezing
  • Runny nose or congestion

Causes/Risk Factors

Cat allergies are caused due to the inefficiency of its immune system. When it recognizes the proteins in the cat's dander (dried flakes of skin that the animals shed), saliva or urine, the body sees them as something dangerous. The immune system then reacts to fight against them and the substances and chemicals released, like histamine, cause the allergic reactions.

Almost one-third of people with allergic asthma are prone to have a moderate to severe asthma flare-up due to exposure of cats. A family history of cat allergies, pet allergies or other common allergies is a major risk factor for cat allergies. A person with other allergies is also more likely to have cat allergies than someone who has no other allergy problems.

Tests/Diagnosis

Skin tests, to expose a person to the proteins in cat skin, urine and saliva, can show a reaction on the skin where a tiny spot is pricked and exposed. A blood test can also be used. Occasionally, these tests will show a negative result while a person still continues to exhibit symptoms of cat allergies. Sometimes the cat does not have to be the cause for these allergies, but possibly the mold, pollen or other substances that the cat may bring into the house on its fur.

Treatment

Because cat allergies can't be treated, the only choice is to treat the symptoms immediately after exposure to a cat. Antihistamines are the most common treatment and sometimes decongestants can help to treat the nasal problems. For someone with cat allergies and other similar airborne allergies, prescription antihistamines and even prescription steroids can be given to counteract symptoms.

Limiting exposure to cats and avoiding them when possible is the best way to handle cat allergies. To prevent the symptoms before they start. In a situation where that's not possible, a person can talk to his or her doctor about taking allergy shots.

Allergy shots don't offer 100% protection, but they can offer great relief when they do work effectively.

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