We all love our furry friends, but with spring allergy season upon us the dander pets produce can be enough to send allergy sufferers over the edge. There’s nothing worse than spending time at home suffering from itchy eyes, a scratchy throat, runny nose, and clogged sinuses. Your home is supposed to be your sanctuary! Is there any way you can find relief without having to kick Fido or Fluffy out of the house?
To start, it helps to know what pet dander is so that you can fight against it. Dander is the dead skin cells which shed from your pet friend. Many people believe that pet allergies stem from fur, but that isn’t the case (although hair can create a great place for dead skin cells to accumulate). In addition to dander, some people can react to allergens found in the saliva and urine of pets, including animals like gerbils and hamsters. When dander is allowed to accumulate, or other fluids left to evaporate into the air, it can create an uncomfortable situation for allergy sufferers.
So how can you lessen the symptoms of pet allergies while keeping these beloved family members in the house?
Start with A Good Air Filter
The HVAC system of your home acts as the lungs of your environment. The air conditioner readily takes in air, runs it through the cooling process, and then back out into your home through vents. Part of that process includes filtration, which is where microscopic particles are filtered out of the air – this includes pet dander and other allergens. If your filter has a low MERV rating or is filthy, guess where all those unfiltered particles end up? Right back into your home’s air.
A properly maintained, high-quality air filter can set the foundation for creating excellent air quality that is relatively free of dander and other allergens. If your HVAC system can handle it, a HEPA filter will do the best job of cleaning out pet-related allergens. Check your manual first, though, as some HVAC systems can’t handle these types of filters due to reduced air flow. If you can’t use a HEPA filter, look for a filter with a high MERV rating – the higher the rating, the smaller the particles filtered from the air.
Don’t Allow Pets into Your Bedroom
Creating a pet-free zone for the person suffering from allergies is a good idea, so make sure that pets don’t have access to that person’s bedroom. At the very least, don’t allow the pet to get on the bed – dander will end up in the bedding materials, which will make for a miserable night’s sleep.
In addition to keeping pets out of sleeping areas, it may be a good idea to invest in mattress and pillow covers to prevent dander from sticking to difficult to clean surfaces. Remember to wash your sheets and comforters on a weekly basis. If your comforter isn’t washable, it may be time to switch to a washable option as allergens love to stick to fabrics and accumulate.
Vacuum & Dust Often
Making sure the dander doesn’t build up on surfaces, especially fiber surfaces such as upholstery or carpeting, will help to reduce symptoms in allergy sufferers. If possible, and depending on how severe the symptoms are of those with the pet allergy, you may want to vacuum or dust at least once a day. Remember to dust first, starting with the highest areas in the room, and then vacuum. This will help to remove the most particulate matter from surfaces and help keep things clean.
Choose Your Vacuum Wisely
Much like air filters, not all vacuums are the same. If pet allergies are a problem for you, look for models that are built specifically to handle pet hair. These vacuums will provide the powerful suction necessary to get all the dander out of your carpets and upholstered furniture.
Much like air filters, there are vacuums available that come with HEPA filters. These types of filters will gather minuscule particles and help to keep your air as clean as possible.
Have Your Pet Groomed
Whether you do it yourself or send your pet to a professional, have them groomed often. The recommendation from many sources is to do a full grooming (shampooing and brushing) on a weekly basis, but this can vary from pet to pet depending on breed, coat, and individual shedding rates. At the very least, it’s a good idea to brush your pet daily (preferably outside) to keep the dander down.
Sometimes we forget that our four-legged friends can also have food allergies and dry skin. Pets with allergies can be itchy, which means they scratch all the time, thereby releasing more dander into the air. If you notice your pet doing a lot of licking and scratching, especially in one area, it can indicate an allergy problem. A vet can help you identify the source and treat the problem.
Dry skin can also be a problem for pets, especially during the winter months. If your pet is scratching and seems to have dandruff-like flakes, a vet can recommend supplements that can help their coat stay moisturized and healthy.
Regularly Clean Pet Bedding
Much like your bedding, pet bedding should be washable and cleaned at least on a weekly basis. If you have a rodent pet, such as a gerbil or hamster, clean their cage weekly and supply clean, fresh nesting material. If you can, do the cleaning outdoors to prevent old bedding material from being stirred up and released into the house.
For litter boxes, a daily clean is recommended, with a full wash-down at least once a week. A dust-free litter will also help to keep things clean and fresh.
Keep Pets Off Furniture
We all know that pets like to cuddle, especially on the couch. Unfortunately, upholstery is a trap for dander and pet hair, and it’s hard to deep clean these surfaces. If possible, try to keep pets off furniture. If that isn’t likely to happen (as anyone who has ever owned a cat knows), compromise and use washable slipcovers or consider leather furniture that doesn’t hold onto hair as readily.
Consider a Separate Air Purifier
If you routinely follow the suggestions above and still have issues with allergies even with medical treatment, you may also consider a separate air purifier. A quality air purifier can help to pull particulate matter from the air that your HVAC system may have missed. It will act as a backup to keep your home air as clean as it can be.