Aaaaaaachoo! Sneezing? Wheezing? Nose runny, eyes itchy? You may be suffering from the common cold. But if the condition has been hanging on for two weeks, or more, you may be suffering from an allergy as opposed to a cold. Your doctor may be the only one who can conclude if you are experiencing an allergic reaction.

Woman with Allergies

There are many types of allergies but being allergic to animals is quite common. What happens if you discover you are susceptible to pet allergies?

Does this mean that your faithful dog, loving cat or beautiful rabbit has to go?

Some people that have allergies can continue to live with their pet. It depends upon the severity of your allergies and whether or not you are prepared to make some changes and live within a few rules. If your allergic reaction to your pet is on the moderate side, you may be able to reduce your suffering by reducing the amount of animal allergens you come in contact with.

Up to 15 percent of the population are allergic to domestic animals and approximately one third of those continue to live with their pet. For many the pleasure of owning a pet outweighs the burden and discomfort of pet allergies.

If your allergies make life miserable for you, but are non life threatening, you may be able to reduce the symptoms by taking the following actions.

If you suffer from allergies, and share your living space with an animal, it is extremely important to keep dust and dust mites to a minimum in your home. The microscopic skin particles that are cast off by dogs, cats, hamsters and other pets are known as dander, and can quickly spread throughout your home and cause allergic reactions for anyone who has a pet allergy.

Never sleep with your pet. You would be breathing in dander for the whole time that you are asleep. Best make your bedroom a no go area for your pets, keep your bedroom door closed and don't allow your pet in. Although you cannot completely prevent dander from getting into your bedroom, keeping the animal out will greatly reduce the level of pet allergen in that room. Buy a low cost vinyl encasing for your mattress, this will keep down the dander that resides within your bed. Wash blankets, sheets and pillow cases frequently.

Where you can replace your carpets. A non porous flooring such as hardwood, tile, vinyl or linoleum will contain far less allergen than carpeting. Where you do have carpets have them cleaned regularly and vacuum frequently - and use a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum filter.

Consider replacing fabric furniture covered for leather or vinyl furniture and replacing your curtains with plastic blinds, an expense but doing so will help reduce the effect of your pet allergies.

Bath your pet frequently, at least once a week and you will greatly diminish the amount of dander residing in your pet's fur (by up to 80%). Contrary to popular belief cats can be bathed, get someone to help and ask your veterinarian for advice on how to do this properly.

Damp wipe all surfaces once per week, pet allergens are airborne and will stick to most anything. Don't forget to wipe down your pet's toys they will be harboring allergens.

Washing off or changing the filter in your heating cooling system will help. Consider purchasing a HEPA air cleaner, they can reduce allergens in the home and increase comfort for those who suffer with pet allergies.

Talk to your doctor about your commitment to keeping your pet. If he/she considers that your pet allergy is not life threatening he/she may understand your reluctance to part with your animal companion. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may be prescribed and may help you, together with the steps above, to continue to enjoy the company of your cat, dog, hamster or rabbit.

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