Reactions to animal allergens may be very mild or quite severe. Symptoms may occur immediately after exposure to the allergen, or they may build gradually for 8-12 hours after exposure or become persistent.
The usual symptoms of indoor allergic reactions are those of many other allergic reactions include itchy, stuffy nose, clear nasal discharge, itchy, watery, swollen, bloodshot eyes, sneezing, scratchy, swollen throat, cough, wheezing, and tightness in the chest.
If the symptoms of the allergic reaction worsen or do not improve with removal of the allergen, call a physician. If you are having persistent nasal, eye, or chest symptoms, see your doctor. If your respiratory problems are severe (e.g., shortness of breath, difficulty breathing), go to the emergency department or seek care from your physician as soon as possible.
Generally, your physician will be able to identify the problem by examining you and asking questions. Treatment can begin without further evaluation or testing.
Tests and x-ray films are not required except under unusual circumstances. If you don’t respond well to treatment or if there is any doubt about what is causing the reaction, an allergy specialist (allergist) can use skin tests that may identify the allergen. Many people find this worthwhile before going through elaborate procedures to remove allergens from their home or making the painful decision to get rid of a pet.
An allergic sensitivity is a reaction of the immune system to a foreign “invader,” a substance that is not native to your body. Exposure to this invader, an allergen, triggers the reaction.
When the allergen particles come to rest in the linings of the eyes, nose, or airway of a susceptible person, an allergic reaction can occur. Most people with asthma or hay fever or other outdoor allergies think of their home as a haven where they can escape their allergies. Unfortunately, houses and apartment buildings harbor their own allergens (agents that cause allergy symptoms). The inside of your home actually traps allergens, making them impossible to avoid.
Unlike seasonal allergies such as hay fever, indoor allergies may last all year long. Indoor allergens may provoke or worsen asthma symptoms, depending on a person’s unique sensitivities. Sensitivity to indoor allergens is very common and occurs at every age. It is less common in children younger than 5 years. People most likely to experience allergic rhinitis are those in early school and early adult years.
The single best thing you can do to stop the reaction is to reduce your exposure to the allergens. If it is animal dander causing your allergic reaction, you do have options.
Keeping the animal outdoors all the time is a partial solution, but your home will still have greater amounts of dander than if the animal is removed altogether. You may want to see an allergist to confirm that your pet is the cause of the symptoms before making the painful decision to get rid of a pet. If you decide to remove the animal, it may take as long as 6 months or longer for the allergy symptoms to go away completely.
Before getting a pet, spend indoor and outdoor time with other animals of the same species to make sure all family members can tolerate the dander. Remember that allergies tend to run in families. If you are allergic to animal dander, your children may be too. Also, even people who do not have problems initially may develop them later. It is practically impossible to remove all house dust with all its allergens from your home.