Symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing or sneezing that occur after petting a cat simply indicates that the individual has cat allergy. It is important to note that cat allergy can contribute to persistent allergy symptoms since exposure can occur at school, at work, at the day care center or in other indoor environments even if a cat is not around.
Remember that cats produce several allergens that are present on the skin, fur and saliva. All cats produce allergens and homes with more than one cat have elevated levels of cat allergens. Certain characteristics such as the gender, length of hair and amount of time the cat spends indoors are not linked with the level of cat allergens. In addition, pollen and dust in the cat’s coat can also trigger allergy symptoms. In such cases, the allergy is due to dust or pollen, not to the cat.
Cat allergy symptoms
The symptoms of cat allergy can range from mild to severe depending on the sensitivity of the individual as well as the level of exposure to allergens. These can also influence how quickly the symptoms develop after exposure. Individuals who are highly sensitive can also develop symptoms including breathing issues or rashes within minutes after touching a cat or entering a house with a cat.
The common symptoms typically include the following:
- Facial pain
- Runny or stuffed nose along with sneezing episodes
- Watery, itchy or red eyes
- Coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and wheezing
- Hives or skin rashes
In some individuals, they develop hives or rash after being scratched by a cat.
Diagnosing cat allergies
If an individual is suspected with cat allergy, a doctor should be consulted for proper diagnosis and treatment.
In most cases, a skin prick test is commonly used to diagnose cat allergies. During this test, a small amount of the cat allergen extract is applied on the skin. The skin is pricked with a small, sterile probe to allow the extract to seep beneath the skin surface. The individual is monitored for redness and swelling or other signs of a reaction which might indicate an allergy.
Management of cat allergies
Remember that avoidance is the ideal way to properly manage cat allergies. If an individual has a cat, it is best to remove the cat from the house. In case the individual has a cat but could not find it a new home or still determined to keep it, there are measures that can help minimize the symptoms.
- Always keep the cat out of the bedroom.
- Avoid hugging, petting or kissing the cat. If exposed, wash hands using water and soap.
- Use a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner or a central vacuum on a regular basis to minimize the level of allergens.
- A high-efficiency particulate area (HEPA) cleaner must be run continuously in the bedroom or living room to reduce the level of allergens over time.
- The cat must be given a bath at least once a week to minimize the airborne allergens.