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Can You Develop An Allergy To Cats Later In Life?

I am sure you heard of this storyline before. My wife/ partner/ kids, and I have had a cat for the longest period of time. We never experience any allergy issues, even when the feline sleeps next to me. One fine morning, my nose started to turn red. I can't stop sneezing, wheezing, and coughing in the house. When I left the house, all the symptoms would go away gradually. The situation never recovers, and I'm not getting decent sleep when the furball is around. Why am I suddenly allergic to my cat? How to get over cat allergies and have my life back on track?
Short answer
Avoidance is the best treatment but is not the only solution.

 

Why Am I Allergic To My Cat All Of A Sudden?

Here’s a fact, anyone can develop or outgrow cat allergies at any stage of their life. You may only experience cat allergy as you grow older because you have been repeatedly in contact with the same allergen, not because of the age factor. Another reason is cat allergies take some time to develop from the initial exposure. Hormones, family history, and surroundings would affect allergies development. Some breed of cats directly correlates with a particular type of allergy. If you have a history with other allergies or are a hypersensitive person, you are likely to be more sensitive to cat allergy.

It all begins when our body is in contact with a substance via inhaling, ingestion, or entering through the skin. An allergic reaction occurs because the immune system treats the harmless substances that enter our body as harmful. Our body will produce immunoglobin E (IgE) to fight off foreign substances in response. IgE antibodies release histamines, leukotrienes, and other chemicals that lead to allergy symptoms. As the allergens build up, one will start experiencing milder symptoms and slowly transform into a more severe case.

How To Get Rid Of Cat Allergies In House

Let’s be clear up front. Avoidance (NOT ignorance) is the best treatment, but it’s not the only solution. There are many ways you can deal with cat allergies or at least curb down on the symptoms. Some methods are controversial, so skip the one you’re not comfortable with. Remember, ignorance is not an option, and you should never wait it out and hope for the best.

  1. Not having a cat at all – If you or your family members are allergic to the feline, the sensible move is not to have one. But what if you already have a cat or your children are very attached to it? Your best option is to keep it outside as much as possible. If the kitten must stay, consider the other options below.
  2. Do not touch, hug, or kiss a cat – A simple rule that many fail to follow. Their saliva is packed with scary germs that you cannot imagine. Avoid scratching the cat as it will lift the cat dander off into the air. Even petting the furry animal is a no go as it could trigger your allergy. If you have contact with your cat, wash your hand with soap and avoid rubbing your eyes when the cat is present. Finally, shower and change new clothes after exposing a cat. You’ll be surprised how clingy cat hair can be on your cloth and hair.
  3. Restrict your cat activity – Particularly in the bedroom as that’s the place you spend one-third of your time in. By setting a boundary on the cat activity space, you are limiting the cat dander and hair exposure to only a specific area. Ideal for those that have to live with their feline despite their allergies. Also, keep a distance between you and the cat. Let other family members take up the responsibility for the cat’s care e.g. cleaning the litter box.
  4. Groom your cat daily – A simple chore but it will greatly reduce the numbers of cat dander and germ floating around. Use a soft-bristled brush and start stroking down repeatedly to reduce shed hair, stimulate the skin, and prevent matting. Perform the cat grooming outside to prevent loose hair and skin flakes from flowing back in. Wear a mask if you have trouble grooming the furball without having a sneezing frenzy. If you are down with pretty bad allergies, maybe it’s better to share the chore with others.
  5. Bathe your cat – This one is slightly controversial as some experts believe it will not reduce allergens. In our own experience, bathing Mr whiskey helps wash away dead skin, dirt, and germs. For the best result, apply conditioner to keep hair strong and shining. Use a towel instead of a hairdryer because the heat may lead to skin rash. In short, if bathing your cat does not traumatize them at all, there’s no harm in trying.
  6. Try allergy shots (Immunotherapy) – An allergy shot AKA Immunotherapy is a treatment used to enhance our body’s natural defenses. Injecting small doses of allergen into our body will progressively desensitize the immune system to cat allergens. Shots are required every week and gradually decrease to monthly for 4-5 months. Ideal for hypersensitive persons where their immune system is sensitive to unknown substances. Take note that some people might be allergic to immunotherapy (take about irony). Check with an allergist before opting for this option.
  7. Allergy drugs for temporary relief – Consult with your doctor or allergist before proceeding with this method. When you have a hectic day and allergies strike, some medications provide fast relief. Antihistamines alleviate allergic reactions by decreasing the production of histamine chemicals. Corticosteroids help lessen inflammation and redness. Leukotriene modifiers hinder the action of immune system chemicals. Decongestants reduce swollen tissues in the nasal passageways and help improve breathing. Inhaler (for asthma) and epinephrine injection pen can be a life-saver for those with a specific condition.
  8. Get an air purifier – Our air is full of particulate matters that can be dangerous when inhaled. This includes the featherweight cat dander and traveling germs. An air cleaner will pull in all the airborne contaminants discharged from your furball and trap it into its series of filtration. It will also remove bad odors from your cat’s saliva and feces. There are many types of air purifiers in the market, choose the right model according to your room size. Also, make sure the air purifier comes with a genuine True HEPA filter and activated carbon filter. You can learn about the different types of HEPA filters here.
  9. Avoid using carpet or rugs – Is either the cat goes or the decorative mat does. Carpets contain germs, mold, and cat dander buried deep within that cannot be seen through our naked eyes. You will need a good HEPA vacuum cleaner with the discipline to perform regular vacuuming. Failing to do so will lead to the unavoidable accumulation of cat allergens. For floor or wall-to-wall carpet that cannot be easily removed, daily vacuuming is your only option. If you have the budget, replace it with wood/ tiles flooring that saves you a lot of time and effort.
  10. Change a different breed – It’s no secret that some breed shed more than others. That’s just how it goes. If you insist on having a cat, go with hypoallergenic cats that shed way less and produce much fewer germs in their saliva. The popular breed includes Siberian, Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, Sphynx, Balinese, Russian Blue, Javanese, and Bengal cat. Preliminary clinical study also showed lighter colored or female cat tends to produce fewer allergens.
  11. Switch to hypoallergenic products – Costly but it can make a difference defending against cat allergy. A hypoallergenic label product is less likely to cause allergic reactions than non-hypoallergenic products. There’s one for everything from hypoallergenic pillows, bed sheets, upholstery to makeup cosmetics or shampoo.
  12. Vacuum thoroughly and regularly – From left to right, top to bottom. Cat hair and dander are so light that they will fall all over the places. To reduce exposure to cat allergens, get a HEPA vacuum cleaner with a microfilter bag and start vacuuming at least once a day. Focus on furniture, carpet, and even the top shelf where the cat lounge on. Wear a mask to prevent you from inhaling the airborne cat dander or let someone else do it. An air purifier would help capture all the disturbed dust and cat hair during vacuuming.
  13. Plan ahead – If you have guests that own cats, their clothes might be stuck with cat dander and hair that will indirectly spread the germs to you. Prepare yourself allergy medication. If you stay in a house with cats, politely ask the owner to keep the cat out of the room you’re sleeping in for at least a couple of weeks. Avoidance is the best defense against cat allergen.
  14. Eat healthy, stay healthy – A healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in fighting off allergens. Consume lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and even healthy fats. Example berries, garlic, leafy greens, cauliflower, kale, raw honey, and plain yogurt. Exercise 3 times a week between 20 minutes each session. Drink plenty of water, sleep 7-8 hours a day, control yourself, and avoid stressing out yourself. Last final bits of advice, stop smoking or hang out with smokers. The chemicals in tobacco smoke will destroy the body’s immune system. Do the same with Mr. Whiskey. A healthy cat will shed less, be free from skin rash, and produce fewer germs. Add fish oil with selective grain-free cat food and never lock a cat inside a cage. You easily tell if the diet works when the cat’s skin is healthy with thick, glowing hair.
  15. Outgrow your cat allergy – All hope is not lost. You might be allergic to cats now, but that doesn’t mean a few years down the road, you will still be. A person’s allergy reactions may gradually subdue or disappear at any stage of life. Researchers are scratching their heads on this occurrence, but the possibility is there.

Never ignore the signs. Even to this date, researchers could not figure out why some people will develop cat allergies, and others do not. Cats are notoriously known for causing allergies to humans. While living harmoniously with a cat is still possible, it may cause discomfort that will not end unless something is done. An allergy could lead to never-ending cold symptoms in your children that can be bad for their immune system development. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Coughing/ Wheezing
  • Sneezing/ stuffy nose
  • Red eyes/ bloodshot eyes
  • Rash/ itchy skin
  • Asthma attack
  • Throat irritation

If you are not entirely sure your allergy symptoms have to do with a cat, go for a short getaway and see if the allergies subside with a cat out of sight. It's still a good idea to get confirmation from an allergist or doctor before asking for any treatment.

Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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