Cat allergies are a significant complication if you love feline companionship but find yourself sneezing, itching, and experiencing other uncomfortable allergy symptoms when you’re around them. The good news is that there are ways to build immunity to cat allergies and minimize the impact of allergens on your daily life.
In this article, we’re discussing how to build immunity to cat allergies, ways to reduce exposure to cat allergens in your home, whether some cats produce more allergens than others, and more. Learn how to minimize your allergic reaction to cats so you can cohabitate in peace.
Can You Build Immunity to Cat Allergies?
Cat allergies are your body’s immune system reacting to certain proteins found in their urine, cat dander (dead skin cells), and saliva. Some over-the-counter (OTC) medications may help in the short term, but what about if you’re living with a cat or interacting with cats regularly? Can you build immunity to cat allergies?
The answer to that question is for some people, yes, and for others, no. Building complete immunity to cat allergies is a complex and individualized process. While some people might experience a reduction in allergic reactions over time through gradual exposure to cat allergens directly or through treatment options like immunotherapy, it's important to note that cat allergens are potent and resilient.
Factors like the severity of the allergy, genetics, overall health, and the specific cat's allergen production levels all contribute to this variability.
Note: Loving pets but having allergies is a challenge. Read more about how to treat your pet allergy after this article.
Do Some Cats Produce More Allergens Than Others?
When learning how to build immunity to cat allergies, there are certain myths that need to be debunked. The most prevalent of these is that you’re allergic to cat fur. The reality is your immune system is fighting against cat allergens present in saliva, dander, and/or urine. Cat dander (made up of dead skin cells) is released into the environment as the cat sheds, which is where this misunderstanding often begins.
What about the levels of allergens produced by cats? Are they all the same? No, they’re not.
The levels of the allergens a cat produces will vary based on factors such as the cat's breed, gender, age, and individual characteristics. It’s important to remember that all cats produce some level of allergens and there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat.
While there are some breeds that typically produce fewer allergens, individual cats within any gender or breed can still vary significantly in allergen levels. Some people with cat allergies might also react more strongly to specific cats, regardless of their gender or breed, due to their unique sensitivity to allergens.
How to Build Immunity to Cat Allergies: What You Can Do
If you’re living with a cat or want to get one but suffer from allergies, what can you do? There are different methods for how to build immunity to cat allergies that may help in both the short and long term.
Short-Term Treatment for Cat Allergies
Short-term treatment options for cat allergies aim to provide relief from allergic symptoms without addressing the underlying immune response. These treatments are suitable for managing immediate discomfort but may not contribute toward how to build immunity to cat allergies in the long term.
Some options for short-term treatments for cat allergies are:
- Antihistamines: Over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines can help alleviate symptoms of cat allergies like sneezing, itching, and runny nose. These medications block histamine, a chemical that triggers allergy symptoms and best work when taken 1 hour before cat exposure.
- Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays containing corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and alleviate common cat allergy symptoms. They work best if taken regularly.
- Eye drops: Antihistamine containing eye drops can relieve itching, redness, and watering of the eyes caused by allergic reactions to cats.
- Saline rinses: Saline nasal rinses or irrigation can help clear nasal passages, remove irritants, and provide temporary relief from congestion. This may help flush cat allergens from the nasal passage.
Long-Term Treatments for Cat Allergies
Long-term treatments for cat allergies focus on addressing the underlying immune response when determining how to build immunity to cat allergies over time. These treatments aim to provide lasting relief and reduce the severity of allergic reactions to cats.
Some long-term cat allergy treatment options are:
- Subcutaneous immunotherapy (allergy shots): Allergy immunotherapy shots involve regular injections of gradually increasing doses of allergens you’re sensitive to. The goal is to desensitize the immune system and reduce the body's allergic response. Allergy shots are administered over a period of several years and can lead to lasting improvements in allergy symptoms.
- Sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops/tablets): This is an alternative to allergy shots where the allergen is placed under the tongue in the form of prescription allergy drops or tablets. Like allergy shots, allergy drops/tablets works to build tolerance to the allergen over time. It’s an ideal alternative to allergy shots as it requires no injections, can be administered from the comfort of your home, and may be able to treat multiple allergies at once.
- Medications: Some individuals with chronic cat allergies might benefit from long-term use of prescription medications, such as corticosteroid nasal sprays or antihistamines, to manage ongoing symptoms.
How to Reduce Cat Allergens in Your Home
Can you build immunity to cat allergies by reducing allergen levels in your home? You can, and you should. There are a few effective ways to reduce allergies at home and they’re vital to improving your daily life and wellness if you have cat allergies.
A few tips and techniques for managing cat allergies and creating a more comfortable living environment include:
- Regular cleaning: Similar to managing hay fever, regularly clean your home in order to help reduce cat allergens in your home. This includes vacuuming carpets, upholstery, and curtains using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Use air purifiers: Consider using high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in your home's heating and cooling systems. Standalone HEPA air purifiers can also help reduce airborne allergens from cats.
- Grooming: Regularly groom your cat by brushing their fur or taking them to a groomer. This helps to remove loose hair and reduce shedding, which can contribute to higher levels of dander exposure.
- Wash bedding: Wash your cat's bedding, your bedding, and other soft furnishings in hot water to remove allergens. Using allergen-proof covers for mattresses and pillows can also be beneficial.
- Designated cat-free zones: Create specific cat-free areas in your home, especially in bedrooms. This helps reduce exposure to allergens in spaces where you spend a lot of time.
- Proper flooring: Consider replacing carpets with hard flooring like hardwood or tile. This helps eliminate dander traps from your home and keeps allergens from settling in and makes it easier to minimize your overall exposure through cleaning.
- Choose leather or vinyl: Instead of heavy fabric for couches, chairs, or other decor, consider furniture and curtains made from materials that are less likely to trap allergens, such as leather or vinyl.
When it comes to building immunity to cat allergies, allergy immunotherapy may or may not be completely effective. However, various strategies can help reduce symptoms and make living with cats more manageable. Minimizing exposure to cat dander and other allergens through cleaning, grooming, and making lifestyle changes can significantly improve your quality of life.
Consult with allergists and healthcare professionals for personalized advice and treatment options, including taking an at home allergy test kit to determine if cat allergens are the source of your symptoms.
They say knowledge is power. We couldn’t agree more. Learn about the chronic health condition that affects 50 million Americans every year.