Living with your cat or dog, even if you have pet allergies

People with pet allergies have over-sensitive immune systems. The problem can be something like your four-legged friend's saliva or dander.

If you have a pet allergy, can you still live safely with your furry companion?

In the U.S., as many as three in 10 people with allergies are allergic to cats and dogs.

And cat allergies are about twice as common as dog allergies.

Kevin Hudson has had allergies his whole life.

"They tested me, and I was allergic to pretty much everything," Hudson said.

In addition to outdoor allergies, doctors determined Hudson was highly allergic to cats but still had them in his childhood home.

"My mother loved cats, so there was always at least two or three, sometimes, four or five, cats in the house," Hudson said.

Living with an animal you're allergic to is difficult - but not impossible. If you do have an allergy, you may still be able to live comfortably with your dog or cat. First - don't let your pet in your bedroom a place where you spend about 1/3 of your life. Also, use a high-efficiency HEPA air cleaner. Steam-clean carpets regularly and wear a dust mask when you vacuum. Bathe your pet once a week to keep dander at bay.

"Over-the-counter antihistamines are very effective, and the nasal steroids are very effective for that particular problem," Dr. Seth Johnson said.

Experts say make sure you're tested to determine what allergies you do have. For example, you might find you're allergic to something like tree pollen. It might be something your dog got on his fur during a walk, not your dog itself.

If you are seriously impacted by your pet, doctors suggest a combination approach: medical control of symptoms, good housecleaning habits and immunotherapy, so you can keep your best friend and not suffer through symptoms.
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