Thinking of bringing a pet into your home? If you are unsure as to whether your family members have allergies, have them spend time in the home of pet-owning friends before bringing home a dog or cat. "If a family member does in fact have allergies, it doesn't necessarily mean you cannot have a pet," says Dr. Hansen. "If you suspect that you or a member of your family has allergies, take them to a specialist who will determine the exact cause of your symptoms and help alleviate your symptoms." Medications and immunotherapy (de-sensitizing shots) can often allow you and your companion animal to remain together happily ever after. Consider creating an allergen-free room. A bedroom is often the best and most practical choice. By preventing your pet from entering this room, you can ensure at least eight hours of freedom from allergens every night. It's a good idea to use hypoallergenic bedding and pillow materials.
Limit fabrics in your home. Allergens collect in rugs, drapes and upholstery, so do your best to limit or eliminate them from your home. If you choose to keep some fabrics as part of your décor, steam-clean them regularly. Cotton-covered furniture is the smartest choice, and washable blinds or shades make good window treatments.
Make sure your home is clean. Clean the litter box frequently, using low dust, perfume-free filler-clumping litter is a good choice. Dusting around the house regularly and wiping down the walls will also cut down on allergens. Vacuum frequently using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter or a disposable electrostatic bag, which will keep allergens locked into the vacuum. "Washable pet bedding and cages are also a smart option," says Dr. Hansen. "They can be cleaned often and easily, making it simple to keep allergens from accumulating." An air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter can also make a big difference in removing allergens from the air, but remember to still let in some fresh air daily. Anti-allergen room sprays can also deactivate allergens, rendering them harmless. Ask your allergist for a product recommendation.
Make sure your pet is clean, too. Your veterinarian can recommend a shampoo that will not dry out your pet's skin. Bathing your pet once a week washes off the allergens that accumulate in an animal's fur. You can also wipe your pet with a product formulated to prevent dander from building up and flaking off into the environment. Ask your veterinarian to suggest one that is safe to use on animals who groom themselves. Brushing or combing your pet frequently also helps to keep allergens at bay. It's best to do this outdoors, if possible.