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Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Tests For Cat Allergy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

There are a lot of people in the world who are allergic to cats. Cat allergy symptoms are not uncommon and display similar signs like any other primary allergies. Some of these include swollen and red itchy eyes, itchy and runny nose, coughing, wheezing with itchy skin and nasal congestion. In the case of chronic allergies, one could experience swelling of the hands and feet, inflammation of the skin in case of scratches and even difficult breathing or dyspnea. Chronic sore throat is also a common symptom of a cat allergy in adults. A lot of adults do not immediately associate these symptoms with an allergy because they have been around cats for a while and are unable to gauge its severity.

Testing For Cat Allergy

Usually the symptoms of cat allergies are the best way to test for cat allergies. Your doctor can also set up testing for cat allergy if you are not sure. He will do a skin test where he tests the skin patch for different allergens. There are even specialized blood tests that can determine whether you are allergic to cats. If you aren't sure about your reaction to cats, first interact with friends who already have cats. This might give you a good indication as to whether you are allergic or not. That way you can make an informed decision. Sometimes getting a non-furry cat can also be the answer to cat allergies. Even a short haired cat can make a big difference as compared to the long haired cat where allergies are concerned.

Causes

Cat allergy can be due to any of the five possible allergens in a cat. A cat secretes various proteins and other organic compounds and that is what a person forms an allergy to. The most common are a secretoglobin or Fel d 1 and a lipocalin Fel d 4. The former is secreted by the cat's sebaceous glands while the latter is secreted through the saliva. Cat allergy causes are largely dander from the cat. As the cat constantly grooms itself, the dander from its sebaceous glands which are present in the fur and skin, are constantly in the air. Similarly, albumin, which is found in the cat's saliva and urine, is also usually in the air. These cause most of the allergies that are related to cats.

Symptoms

Cat allergy symptoms in children can be particularly severe especially if it is one of the first few times the child is getting exposed to the cat. Children when exposed to cats could develop asthma from the chronic allergic reactions. The primary reaction is the body's histamine reaction which prevents more allergens entering the body. This is what causes the constricted breathing and other forms of skin rash. It is the body's ways of not letting other allergens enter the body. If babies develop allergies to a cat, most doctors suggest finding a new home for the cat. Even with the cat physically removed, the allergens can remain in the house for even up to 6 months. Cleanliness becomes very important if you do not want your baby to develop asthma as a result of the cat allergy.

Treatment

The immediate cat allergy treatment includes anti histamines, either oral or intravenous, depending on how serious the allergy attack is. There are even nasal sprays and eye drops that can provide relief from the symptoms of cat allergies. There are some serious drugs that can be used for breathing problems, especially asthma attacks, if triggered by a cat. The primary treatment for any cat allergy is to not keep a cat. Keeping a cat as a pet despite showing allergy symptoms can lead to a lot of long term damage like breathing problems and developing strains of immunity to allergy medication.

Other ways of co-existing with a cat in spite of an allergy includes keeping the house very clean. Wash your hands every time you touch the cat. Avoid carpeting and furnishing that cannot be regularly laundered. You can also buy air purifiers. Get HEPA quality vacuum cleaners and regularly clean the furniture, especially corners that are not easily accessible. Definitely keep the cat out of your bed and bedroom. Keep the litter box outside the house if possible. Ask your vet for a spray that minimizes dander. Replace curtains and carpets with rugs and easy-to-clean furnishings. Keep most flat surfaces clean and clean them often. A lot of the dander problem occurs if the cat has not been neutered so do the responsible thing and neuter your cat if it is male. Bathe and clean your cat regularly. Sometimes taking additional precautions can help live with a cat despite an allergy. These are just suggestions and should not be considered treatment for allergies to cats. If the allergy symptoms still do not reduce then consult your doctor or the local SPCA and ask for suggestions.

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