It's estimated that of the 70 percent of Americans who have animals in the home, 10 percent will have allergic reactions to them. The total number of people with allergies to animals could be as high as 20 percent or more, depending on what report you happen to be reading. But whether animal-allergy sufferers have pets or not, studies show that allergens can be found in almost every home and public space, which means avoiding the trigger is difficult.
What animals are we allergic to?
Most people with animal allergies find they have reactions to cats, and many others are sensitive to dogs. Cat allergies tend to be the most common and severe because cat dander (skin flakes) can survive for years in a home if it's not cleaned thoroughly. Other people are allergic to rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, birds and horses.
Why are people allergic to animals?
If you're looking to fur and feathers as the most likely allergen culprits, think again. The real enemies are proteins, which can be secreted by oil glands and shed with dander or found in saliva or urine.
The severity of reactions to these animal allergens can end with mild sniffling or progress to severe asthma attacks. Effects can be compounded if the person is also sensitive to another substance, such as volatile organic compounds, or another allergen, such as dust mites.
Sneezing, runny nose, swollen eyes and congestion can occur alone or may be combined with hives and itching. Anaphylaxis can occur in extreme cases.
Animal allergy symptoms can occur immediately after contact with the allergen, often building up with prolonged exposure and becoming most severe up to 12 hours later.
Solutions to dust and dander
Animal allergies are not something to avoid dealing with, especially if the allergy is combined with others. Regular cleaning and filtering can get to the most bothersome allergens and make time with pets a lot more appealing.