Asthma Due to Animals

Pets are just like family members. They provide protection, companionship, love, emotional bond.

But, the sad part is that repeated exposure to dander from dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, horses etc. are common asthma triggers.
What type of animals usually trigger an asthma attack?

Many types of animals – both pets at home and animals you may encounter outside – have been shown to trigger asthmatic inflammation in people who are allergic. These include:

* Cats
* Dogs
* Horses
* Rabbits
* Mice
* Birds
* Other furry animals

What are the common asthma triggers?

It is a common misconception that animal allergies are caused only by the fur or feathers of their pet. In fact, allergies are actually aggravated by:

* proteins secreted by oil glands and shed as dander
* proteins in saliva which stick to fur when animals lick themselves
* aerosolized urine from mice, and other unwanted rodents in the house.

Pet allergens are carried on very small particles and can remain circulating in the air or remain on carpets and furniture for weeks and months after a pet is gone. Allergens may also be present in gardens, parks, public buildings, schools, etc. where there are no pets.

What are the symptoms?

Early warning signs are usually experienced before the outbreak of an asthma attack, and by recognizing these signs, early treatment can be started. These signs are unique to each person. Some early warning signs may be noticed only by the individual, while some may be noticed by other persons.

Some common warning signs include:

* Coughing – this often becomes worse at night or early in the morning.
* Wheezing – breathing with a squeaky sound and with great difficulty.
* Shortness of breath – due to insufficient supply of air
* Fast and/or noisy breathing along with panting.

Common symptoms of asthma include:

* Sneezing
* Mood swings
* Headache
* Stuffy and blocked nose
* Coughing
* Chin/ throat sensitivity and itching
* Feeling of tiredness
* Trouble in sleeping

Symptoms vary from one person to another, and they also differ in severity from person to person. Sometimes symptoms can be so serious that they become life threatening.

Preventive measures to avoid animal induced asthma triggers:

Isolation methods to reduce animal allergen in home are usually advised, but the effectiveness of these methods is not full proof. Animal allergen is carried in the air and by other people of the home on their clothing to all parts of the home, even when the animal is isolated. In fact, animal allergen is often detected in locations where no animal has even ventured.

Some suggestions include:

* The pet’s movements in the house must be restricted. It must be kept away from the person with asthma and also out of the areas where such person spends most of his time.
* Consistent bathing of the pet, frequent vacuuming of carpets, linen, stuffed toys and furnishing upholstery is required. But, this may only provide temporary reduction in allergen levels. Infact, during the washing of the animal, there may be increased exposure to higher levels of allergen in the air.
* An asthmatic person may also require immunotherapy to stay with the pet.
* Depending on the severity of the asthmatic’s sensitivity, removing the pet may prove to be a realistic option. Pet allergens remain in the home for several months after the pet is removed even with cleaning.
* If a pet is a necessity, then one may try out the “hairless” variety of cats and dogs. But be aware that asthma triggers from pets include not only hair, but also include skin cells, urine faeces and saliva.
* Avoid visits to friends and relatives with pets when possible. Ask your doctor about using an inhaled medication before you visit a home with a pet.
* Choose a pet without fur or feathers eg. fish can be a good option.
* After playing with your pet, wash your hands and clean your clothes to remove pet allergens.

Thus, the most effective method to control exposure to animal allergens is to keep your home pet free.

What medication to take?

Keep in constant touch with your asthma doctor if you have a pet at home, so that emergency treatment can be available in case there is a sudden attack.

The doctor will also recommend additional medications, therapies or other environmental controls depending on the severity of your allergy, your tolerance to medication and the type of allergy you are getting.

Remember, not to go in for self-medication. It can do more harm than good. YouÂ’re your regular medication, and follow all preventive strategies to minimize exposure to animals. Anytime, the best strategy is to avoid exposure to furry or feathered animals that make asthma symptoms worse in some people. After all, prevention is better than cure.