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What Can You Catch From Your Cat?

     Humans have successfully lived with cats for thousands of years. Overall, cats are extremely safe pets to own, and they rarely transmit diseases to humans. You are much more likely to contract a disease from your friends and family members than you are from a cat. Diseases that can pass from animals to humans are called zoonoses. There certainly are diseases cats can transmit to humans such as giardia, rabies and ringworm.
     It is estimated that 15 to 20 percent of the human population may be allergic to pets. Humans who are allergic to cats can experience a range of signs, from sniffling and sneezing to life threatening asthma. Many cat owners know they are allergic to their pet, but they believe the benefits of cat ownership far outweigh the discomfort of the allergy. An allergy is a reaction to a substance that is not inherently harmful. In an allergic reaction, this means the immune system makes antibodies and triggers histamine release. This combination produces an inflammatory reaction.

How do you know it’s the cat?

     If you experience watery eyes, sneezing, sore throat or congestion every time you are around a cat, chances are you are allergic to cats. However, if you have cats and are having an allergic reaction whenever you’re home, it doesn’t necessarily mean the cat is the culprit. You may be allergic to dust or mold or the houseplant on your windowsill. Some allergists assume that if you have a cat and are experiencing allergic symptoms, you must be allergic to the cat. But the only way to know for sure is with allergy testing. Some people’s allergies worsen over time. Others are only sensitive when exposed to a large dose of an allergen  For example, you might be able to tolerate living with one cat but have a terrible time when you go over to a friend’s home where there are four cats. Unfortunately, there are no cures for allergies. Avoiding the allergen is the best way to prevent problems. However, allergies to things like dust and trees and grass which can never be removed from your environment can usually be easily managed. Allergies to cats can often be managed as well.
     There are some ways to make life easier for an allergic person. If you are allergic, you should:

• Wash your hands every time you touch a cat. If you touch your face before you wash, you’re asking for trouble.
• Change clothes after playing with a cat, or have a robe or smock that you wear when you’re interacting with a cat.
• Consider wearing a face mask and protective glasses when playing with your cat.
• Avoid touching cats in the areas where they have the most oil glands, such as the chin, cheeks, between the shoulder blades and the base of the tail.
• Never allow cats in your bedroom.There is nothing worse for an allergic person than to place their face into a pillow full of dander.
• Consider using a HEPA filter unit or air purifier to knock allergens out of the air.There are also special vacuum cleaners with HEPA filters.
• Wipe the cat down with a damp rag or use a commercial anti allergy pet solution daily or weekly, so that loose allergens are removed.
• Have the cat professionally groomed and well brushed out regularly.This will limit allergens on top of shedding hairs.
• If possible, have just one cat. More cats mean more allergens.
• Carpet, decorative pillows and draperies can trap allergens, so consider replacing them with tile, washable materials, and blinds or shutters.
People can work with their allergists to find treatments that help relieve the symptoms of cat allergies. Allergy shots and antihistamines are commonly used. There are several antihistamines that can be taken regularly without side effects or drowsiness. Research is being conducted today that is looking at other ways the production of antibodies and release of histamine can be stopped in allergic individuals. In the future, there may be better options for controlling allergies to cats.



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