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 a cat for the longest period of time. We never experience any allergy issues even when the feline is sleeping next to me. One fine morning, my nose started to turn red, I can't stop sneezing, wheezing, and coughing in house. When I left the house, all the symptoms will go away gradually. The situation never recover 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 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 surrounding are factors that would affect allergies development. Some breed of cats has a direct correlation with a particular type of allergy. If you have a history with other allergies or 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 enter through the skin. An allergic reaction occurs because the immune system treats the harmless substances that enter our body as harmful. In response, our body will produce immunoglobin E (IgE) to fight off foreign substances. IgE antibodies release histamines, leukotrienes, and other chemicals that lead to allergy symptoms. One will always start experiencing milder symptoms and slowly transform into a more severe case as the allergens build up.

How To Get Rid Of Cat Allergies In House

Let’s be clear upfront. 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 on the controversial side 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 pack with scary germs that you cannot imagine. Avoid scratching cat as it will lift cat dander off into the air. Even petting the furry animal is a no go as it could trigger your allergy. If you have in 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 you are exposed to 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 are having trouble grooming the furball without having 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 actually reduce allergens. In our own experience, bathing Mr whiskey helps wash away dead skin, dirt, and germs. For the best result, applied conditioner to keep hair strong and shining. Use a towel instead of a hair dryer because the heat may lead to skin rash. In short, if bathing your cat does not traumatize them at all, there’s no harm trying.
  6. Try allergy shots (Immunotherapy) – An allergy shot AKA Immunotherapy is a treatment used to enhance our body’s natural defenses. By injecting small doses of allergen into our body, it 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, there are medications that 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 coming 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 you save 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. 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 compared to non-hypoallergenic products. From hypoallergenic pillows, bed sheets, upholstery to make up cosmetics or shampoo, there’s one for everything.
  12. Vacuum thoroughly and regularly – From left to right, top to bottom. Cat hair and dander is so light that it will fall all over the places. To reduce the exposure to the 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 top shelf where the cat lounge on. Wear a mask to prevent you from inhaling to 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. Prep yourself allergy medication. If you are staying 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 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, and avoid stressing out yourself. Last final bits of advice, stop smoking or hanging 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, 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. If 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 it is still possible to live harmoniously with a cat, it may cause discomfort that will not end unless something is done. An allergy could lead to never-ending cold symptoms on 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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