Build Immunity to Cat Allergies: What to Do If You’re Allergic to Cats


How to build immunity to cat allergies?

There are several ways to build immunity to cat allergies. Some will naturally develop a tolerance over time. However, most people won’t develop an immunity on their own. Allergy treatments such as immunotherapy can retrain their immune system to tolerate cat dander.

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When it comes to pet allergies, the number of cat allergies is twice as high as dog allergies. But just because you may be allergic to cats doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to manage your allergy, even when living with one.

What to Do if You’re Experiencing a Cat Allergy

If you’re around a cat and have allergy symptoms like watery eyes, sneezing, or red, itchy skin, you may have a cat allergy. For mild symptoms, an over-the-counter (OTC) medication may help. Nasal steroid sprays and antihistamines temporarily relieve symptoms but do nothing for your allergies long-term.

For those with a more severe allergic reaction, remove the cat from the area and wash your hands after touching it. In cases where you may be more sensitive to cat allergens, getting away from the cat may not be enough. You may need to leave the area.

If you experience swelling in the tongue or throat or have difficulty breathing, seek immediate medical attention.

What Causes a Cat Allergy?

A cat allergy develops when your immune system overreacts to a protein in cat dander, urine, or saliva. This protein is what allergists call sticky. It clings to things like hair, carpets, furniture, and clothing. And because cats spend so much time cleaning themselves, it’s not hard for traces of cat saliva to end up spread throughout a home.

When your immune system responds to the harmless cat protein, it acts as though it’s dangerous. The body induces an immune response in an attempt to get rid of the allergen, which leads to a range of allergy symptoms.

What Are the Symptoms?

Cat allergies can cause a variety of allergy symptoms. Some of the most common include:

  • Inflammation: As your immune system tries to rid your body of the allergen, it incites inflammation. Your nose, sinuses, and eyelids may feel swollen and tender.
  • Itching: This allergic response makes tissues itchy and may affect your eyes, nose, skin, throat, or even your tongue.
  • Rash: For many people, cat allergies cause skin irritation that results in a red rash or hives. It often develops on the neck, chest, face, or where you touched the cat.
  • Sneezing: Sneezing is one of the most common cat allergy symptoms. It may start as soon as you’re around a cat or, if you have a mild allergy, it may only develop after a few hours of exposure.
  • Coughing: For some allergy sufferers, cat allergies mean a nagging cough that may linger even after you’re no longer around the feline.
  • Wheezing: Because a cat allergy can cause inflammation to mucus membranes, it can result in wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath.
  • Fatigue: When you have untreated allergies, it drains your whole system and can leave you feeling fatigued and exhausted.

What if You Want to Own One?

Cat allergies don’t have to keep you from knowing the joys of cat ownership. But there are things you should think about before you bring home a feline friend.

Consider Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds

Although no cat is actually hypoallergenic, some cat breeds are referred to as such because they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Here are the most popular hypoallergenic cat breeds:

  • Javanese
  • Oriental Shorthair
  • LaPerm
  • Burmese
  • Cornish Rex
  • Russian Blue
  • Sphynx
  • Bengal
  • Siberian
  • Siamese
  • Balinese

You may find that your allergies are more sensitive to one breed of cat than another. Pay attention to your symptoms and talk to your doctor about your observations.

Remove Other Allergens

When you have a cat allergy in addition to other environmental or seasonal allergies, it amplifies your symptoms. It’s therefore important that those with cat allergies work to reduce exposure to other allergens, including things like pollen, dust mites, and mold.

You can accomplish this by keeping windows and doors closed during allergy season and using an air purifier within the house. Pay special attention to allergen shelters, places where allergens gather, and work to keep them dust free. Common allergen shelters include overstuffed furniture, drapes, carpets, and bedding.

You may also want to consider removing as many carpets and rugs as possible. These floor coverings harbor cat dander and fur and can be difficult to clean.

Visiting Someone Who Has Cats

Chances are, sooner or later, you may find yourself in the home of someone who has a cat. Follow these tips to enjoy your visit, even if there’s a cat present.

  • Take an antihistamine 30-60 minutes before arriving
  • Wear an overshirt you can remove as soon as the visit’s over
  • Visit outside or in a cat-free zone as much as possible
  • Ask for the kitten to be contained
  • Request a freshly vacuumed room
  • Opt to sit on leather, vinyl, or wooden furniture
  • Ventilate the area by opening a window or screen
  • Avoid touching, petting, or hugging the cat if necessary
  • Keep your hands away from your face
  • Wash your hands before you leave

As soon as you return home, wash your hands and face and change your clothes. If your cat allergy is extreme, you may need to take a shower.

Tips to Prevent and Control Your Pet Allergy

When you suffer from pet allergies, you can work to reduce your allergic reactions. For quick help with symptoms, take an antihistamine or limit exposure to cats. If an OTC medication doesn’t reduce your immediate symptoms or you want to be around cats frequently, talk to your doctor about creating a treatment plan that will be more effective for you.

How to Become Immune

For long-term relief from allergy symptoms, consider immunotherapy, the only proven treatment that works to eliminate your allergies for good. Immunotherapy exposes your immune system to small traces of allergens. The amount is so small, your immune system doesn’t respond. Over time, your immune system builds a tolerance and stops reacting to the allergen.

Sublingual immunotherapy is a popular alternative to allergy shots since it involves taking allergy drops or tablets under the tongue instead of frequent injections. Unlike allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy can also be safely taken from the comfort of home. 

Learn More With Wyndly

If you’re tired of suffering from cat allergies, it’s time to find a solution that works. At Wyndly, our allergy doctors offer support, care, and guidance to help you achieve an allergy-free life and become a cat owner.

Take our quick online allergy assessment to find out how Wyndly can help you!

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