Is Your Best Friend the Reason You Keep Getting Sick?

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Is Your Best Friend the Reason You Keep Getting Sick?

Man’s Best Friend.

Cat Lady.

Pet Parent.


Pet lover.

Animal person.

It’s obvious that pets play an important role in many of our lives. In fact, 27% of US homes have a cat whereas 32% have a dog.[1] As a society, we love our pets. Some of us seatbelt them in the car, buy them gourmet treats, have them pampered at pet spas, and even dress them up like little humans.

Unfortunately for many people, however, pets can mean adverse reactions, including allergies, asthma, and respiratory attacks. In fact, it’s estimated that 10-15% of the population is allergic to animals and roughly one-third live with a pet that causes an allergic response.[2]

According to the American Lung Association, twice as many people are allergic to cats as dogs.[1] The association has even found that more people have responses to female cats compared to males, though they’re unsure why this is the case.[1]

Allergies stem from pet dander (not fur, which is a common misconception). Pet dander is tiny, microscopic flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds, and other animals with feathers or fur.[1] People are also allergic to a specific protein found in animal secretions.[1] What makes this even worse is once these microscopic allergens dry, they easily become airborne and are inhaled by household inhabitants.[1]

Because these microscopic elements are tiny and have jagged edges, they easily get caught up in furniture, curtains, carpets, clothing, bedding, and more. Even when a pet is removed from the home, people can still suffer from reactions to trapped dander for many months.[1]

Some of the most common symptoms of pet allergies, as described by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, include:

  • Sneezing
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Lethargy
  • Fever
  • Digestive issues
  • Nasal congestion
  • Itching
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing[3]

Children, the elderly, and those with allergies are particularly susceptible to animal allergic reactions. If you think you or a family member might be allergic to your pet, here are a few important steps to take to ensure the health and wellbeing of your loved ones:

  • Don’t let animals on furniture or near tapestries.
  • Don’t let animals in sleeping areas—you spend anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of your time at home there.
  • Bar animals from carpets.
  • Steam clean and vacuum frequently.
  • Wear a dust mask to vacuum if you’re the one with allergies.
  • Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Cover heater and air conditioning vents with filters.
  • Bathe pet every week.
  • Have someone without allergies groom pets outdoors.
  • Clean entire house thoroughly and often.
  • Buy a high efficiency air filtration system that specifically removes pet dander from the air.

Just because your best friend might be making you sick doesn’t mean it’s time to find them a new home. After all, Fido and Tinkerbell are a part of your family. It is, however, important to ensure that the previous steps are taken to maximize the comfort of all members of your family.


[1] American Lung Association (n.d.). Pet dander. Accessed October 7, 2015. Retrieved from

[2] Green Home Guide (n.d.). How do pets affect your indoor air quality and overall health? Accessed October 7, 2015. Retrieved from

[3] United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. (n.d.). Biological pollutants in your home. Accessed October 7, 2015. Retrieved from

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