There’s a prescription allergy medication on the market now that makes me smile every time I see it advertised. That’s because the manufacturer makes a big deal out of promising relief from not just from allergies to pollen or dust, but also to pets.
That a drug company would consider it important to make this point suggests that the medical establishment is finally getting around to accepting the relationship many of us have with our pets — even those of us who are allergic to them.
We don’t care if we wheeze. We don’t care if we sneeze. We’re not dumping our pets.
This used to be a difficult point to make with some health-care professionals.
Once I was rudely dismissed by an allergist who insisted that eliminating pets from my life was a condition of his treating me. He told me if I wasn’t going to follow his advice completely, he saw no reason why he should waste his time seeing me.
That was fine with me: I didn’t want to see him, either. The pets stayed; the allergist went.
These days, my allergies and asthma are under good control, thanks to the advice of doctors who are more understanding and to some wonderful medications that have come on the market in recent years. I also have to give credit to my own dedication in following a few rules to reduce the impact of my pets on my allergies. Here are the basics I’ve followed for years now, with good results.
- Limit exposure to other allergens. Avoid cleaning solutions, cigarette smoke and strong perfumes, and consider using a mask when doing yard work and housework, especially at the height of the pollen season.
- Let someone else do the dusting and vacuuming, if at all possible, and if not, invest in a vacuum that filters the air it releases. I’ve had wonderful results with my Dyson vacuum, from a company that has a model actually designed for pet hair (it’s called the “Animal”). The Dyson does an amazing job of picking up pet hair (and everything else), and not venting the allergens back out when I’m vacuuming.
- Keep pets well-groomed. The dirt and pollen that pets pick up in their coats can be almost as bad as the hair and dander they generate themselves. It’s essential for pets to be bathed frequently, and be kept combed and brushed. Ideally, a non-allergic member of the household should assume this responsibility. Even cats should be bathed, by the way: A weekly rinse in plain water has been shown to help people who are allergic to these pets better tolerate them.
- Establish an “allergy-free zone” in the bedroom. Ideally, pets should never be allowed in the bedroom, so as to assure allergy-sufferers a good night’s sleep. To be honest, I’m less than perfect in this category. During times when my other allergies are bothering me – spring, primarily – I kick out the pets. Other times, one, two or all of them are allowed on the bed. I do, however, follow other bedroom guidelines closely, working to reduce allergy triggers by keeping the bedroom sparsely decorated and frequently cleaned. I also wash bedding constantly to combat dust mites, and my pillows are made of non-allergenic material, no feathers. During the height of allergy season, I run an air cleaner at all times.
- Work with your doctor. Rather than argue over my pets, I avoided doctors for years after that run-in with the pets-must-go allergist. After I almost died from an asthma attack – set up by a chest cold and triggered by a pet – I got serious about getting help. These days, I work with health-care professionals who are willing to work with me, prescribing medications that allow my allergies and my pets to co-exist.
Like most allergy-sufferers, I find even the most beautiful spring to be a season of misery at times. But since I started following the good advice that’s out there, I’ve been able to muddle through even the worst days without ever contemplating giving up any of the pets I hold so dear. Not that I ever would, of course.
Over the years I’ve collected plenty of grooming tools for my pets, but in the spring there’s no doubt which one gets the biggest workout: the shedding blade. A simple loop of stainless steel attached to a handle, the blade has teeth that are ideal for grabbing the dead, loose hair that’s so plentiful when winter coats start to be shed. A daily whisking of a pet with this blade will catch a lot of the fur that would otherwise end up in your house or on your clothes. A few minutes of daily effort makes your pet’s coat look clean and shiny. Even better: Many cats and dogs love the sensation of being groomed with this tool. The cost: Less than $10 at most pet-supply stores, catalogs and Web sites.