For most of us, pets are family. They give us joy. They give us love. They make our lives happier and better. Research shows that owning a pet can improve our mental health and boost our immune system. There are so many benefits of owning a pet. However, they come with certain health risks too. For example, some people may develop allergic reactions to pets.
Fortunately, there are ways to minimize the health risks associated with owning a pet. And it all starts with keeping your indoor air quality at a good level.
Pet allergy is more common than you think. In the United States, it is estimated that three in 10 people have allergic reactions to pets.
Most often, these allergic reactions are triggered by pet dander.
Pet dander is composed of very tiny (even microscopic) flecks of skin shed of dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, and other animals with fur or feathers. It contains a protein, which is also present in the animal’s saliva and urine, which triggers allergic reactions in humans. Symptoms include wheezing, stuffy or runny nose, cough, itchy or watery eyes, and skin irritation. Pet dander can make asthma worse and increase your risk of other respiratory illnesses.
Aside from being so tiny, it’s hard to spot it, pet dander also spreads easily.
Pet dander is lightweight and has ragged edges so they stick to almost everything – carpets, drapes, walls, tiles, floors, furniture, and even your clothes! And just like other allergens, pet dander hitches a ride on people and their belongings. Thus, it is not uncommon for some people to develop allergic reactions in other places like malls, restaurants, and hospitals.
Unfortunately, pet dander can linger for long periods if you don’t do something about it. For instance, it may take 20 to 30 weeks for a home that previously had cats, to reduce the concentration level of pet dander down to a level similar to that of a pet-free home.
How to Get Rid of Pet Allergens
The good news is you can keep your pets around without putting yourself or your family at risk of allergies. The trick is to improve the quality of your indoor air.
How? Check out these tips:
Groom your pets regularly
The first and most important step to reduce your risk of allergens is to keep your pets well-groomed. Aside from taking them to the grooming shop regularly, you should also make it a habit to brush your pet to get rid of excess hair and dead skin cells.
If you can do this outside your home, much better. If you are highly allergic to pet dander, wear a mask when brushing or grooming your pet. Avoid washing your pet too frequently. Because the more you wash, the drier their skin gets and this causes more flaking. Once every two or four weeks is enough.
Clean your indoor air
Surprisingly, indoor air pollutants are up to five times higher than outdoor air pollutants. In other words, the air we breathe inside our homes is worse than the air outside. And that is regardless if you have a pet or not.
Since pet dander is extremely lightweight, they don’t just stick on the floors. They can travel throughout the space. Thus, it’s important to clean your indoor air regularly. Use air scrubbers to remove dangerous particles from the air and install air movers to ventilate your room.
Regularly vacuum surfaces, especially carpets and upholstery. Wipe solid surfaces off with a damp rag and disinfect as usual. Don’t forget to have your air ducts at home cleaned. It’s best to call a professional for this job.
Use HEPA air filters throughout your house. You will also benefit greatly from using an air purifier. It helps catch what you may have missed while cleaning.
Set limits for your pets
Don’t allow your pets in your bedroom. While it’s important to have good-quality air throughout your home, it is even more important in the bedroom. If you are highly allergic to pet dander, have your pets sleep in a separate room. Additionally, don’t let your pet sit on furniture unless you’re prepared to clean it.
Other ways to improve your indoor air quality is to use allergy-free covers for your mattress and pillows. Also, avoid having too much of fabric-covered furniture, carpets, upholstery, and other household furnishings that can accumulate dander.
Maintaining indoor air quality is very important especially if you have pets. The good news is that you don’t have to let go of your pets or resist yourself from having one just because you have allergies. There are many good practices to improve the quality of your indoor air, such as using air-cleaning devices, cleaning surfaces regularly, and setting restrictions on your pets.