Just like any other allergy, cat allergies are no fun. If you know anything about allergies, the symptoms are pretty familiar (and annoying). But how do you know if you’re specifically allergic to cats instead of something else, like grass or dust?
Keep reading as we dive into the signs and symptoms of cat allergies, what causes them, and your testing and treatment options.
What Causes Cat Allergies?
Most people think cat allergy symptoms are triggered by cat hair, but that’s not the case. The allergen that causes you to be allergic to cats is found in their urine, saliva, and dander. This allergen does cling to cat hair, but it is not the hair that actually causes your allergic reactions.
If you have cat allergies, your immune system overreacts to these allergens, misidentifying the harmless substance as dangerous. Since your immune system is designed to protect the body from threats like germs and toxins, it treats the allergen the same way. To rid the body of the allergen, it ignites an immune response that induces a range of cat allergy symptoms.
But you don’t necessarily have to be around a cat to experience an allergic reaction. Cat allergens can cling to furniture, clothing, and even walls – sometimes for months. If you’re allergic to cats and you touch a wall a cat brushed against, then you rub your nose, you may experience symptoms.
Pet allergens also become airborne after petting, grooming, or vacuuming. After these allergens get kicked into the air, they can linger, leading to sneezing, itching, and irritation.
Signs and Symptoms of Cat Allergies
Cat allergy symptoms can be separated into three main categories: nasal passage inflammation, asthma, and skin issues.
Nasal Passage Inflammation
Inflammation of your nasal passages, sometimes called “rhinitis,” causes many of the common cat allergy symptoms that impact your nose’s mucus membranes. Rhinitis results in a stuffy or runny nose, congested sinuses, sneezing, and coughing.
Perennial allergic rhinitis takes it a step further by potentially causing allergy symptoms year-round (as opposed to seasonal spring or winter allergies). Perennial allergic rhinitis is caused by allergens like mold, dust mites, and animal dander.
Perennial allergic rhinitis can cause:
- Runny nose
- Frequent sneezing
- Watery, irritated eyes
- Nasal congestion
- An itchy nose, throat, or roof of the mouth
- Facial pressure and pain
- Postnasal drip
- Insomnia or waking up throughout the night
- Swollen under-eyes that may appear blue
For some people, allergies can also cause shortness of breath. People with asthma and allergies might have an asthma flare-up during an allergic reaction, including:
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain or tightness
- Wheezing during exhalation
Also known as “allergic dermatitis,” these symptoms occur when your immune system overreaction results in skin inflammation, like:
- Itchy skin
How Can You Know if You’re Allergic to Cats?
If you think you’re allergic to cats, get allergy tested. Cat allergies diagnoses are typically based on your medical history, potential symptoms, and the results of an allergy test. At-home allergy tests kits are available through Wyndly. With a single finger prick, these blood tests can identify a variety of environmental allergens, including those for cats.
How to Get Rid of Your Cat Allergies
There are options to help manage your cat allergy symptoms.
Avoiding cats is the most effective tactic when you want to figure out how to get rid of your cat allergies naturally. If avoiding cats altogether isn’t an option, be sure to wash your hands after touching them. And don't touch your eyes or nose when you’re around cats.
When you live with a cat, invest in a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to reduce airborne allergen levels. A vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter can effectively remove allergens from your carpet.
Over-the-counter antihistamines can reduce your cat allergy symptoms short term and are a good option when you’re visiting someone with a cat. Immunotherapy, on the other hand, offers long-lasting allergy relief. Through immunotherapy, your body is exposed to small amounts of an allergen. Over time, your immune system develops a tolerance to the allergen and doesn’t respond when you’re exposed.
Are You Ready to Eliminate Your Cat Allergy Symptoms?
If cat allergies are impacting your life
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