For a person with dog allergies, life in a dogloving country is not easy. Dog dander gets everywhere, including places where dogs have never set a paw. So, how can you get through life with an allergy to man’s best friend?
What causes dog allergy(1,2)?
It is not the dog’s hair or fur that is the real problem. Instead, people are usually allergic to the dander - flakes of dead skin. Dander is a particular problem because it is very small and can remain airborne for long periods of time with the slightest bit of air circulation. It also collects easily in upholstered furniture and sticks to your clothes.
You might wonder why dog dander has such an effect on you. People with allergies have an oversensitive immune system. Their bodies overreact to harmless substances - like dog dander - and attack it as they would bacteria or viruses. The sneezing and watery eyes are just side effects of the body’s attempt to destroy or flush out the allergen.
What are the symptoms of dog dander allergy(1)?
The symptoms of dog allergies are usually like those of any other nasal allergy. They include:
How can you diagnose dog dander allergy(1)?
Your doctor can do either a skin test or a blood test that will detect allergen-specific IgE (Immunoglobulin E) to find out if you suffer from a dog allergy
Skin prick test
The skin prick test involves:
Even if you are pretty certain that you are allergic, testing is a good idea. Some people who assume that they have a dog allergy turn out not to have them. Instead, they are allergic to pollen or mould that the dog is carrying in on its coat from outside.
While allergy tests are helpful, they are not always conclusive. So if you own a dog, your doctor might want you to try living without it for a while to see how you do. To get a good sense of your symptoms, it might take some extended time apart. It often takes months before the level of dander in the house drops down to a level resembling that of a house without a dog.
In some cases your doctor may order a blood test that screens your blood for specific allergy-causing antibodies to various common allergens, including HDM (2).
What preventive measures can you take (1)?
The best way to control dog dander allergies is to avoid contact with dogs.
Here are some tips:
Of course, some of the above advice will not help that much if you already have a dog in your home.
Even then, there are still things you can do:
How do you treat dog dander allergy(1)?
Dog allergy can be treated with standard allergy drugs. Your doctor might recommend antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroid nasal sprays. Allergy immunotherapy is another option for people with dog allergy.
Allergen immunotherapy could provide long lasting benefit. You can “train” your immune system not to react exaggerated to an allergen anymore. This is done through a series of allergy shots called allergen immunotherapy. One to two weekly shots expose you to very small doses of the allergen, that causes an allergic reaction. The dose is gradually increased, usually during a three-to six-months period. Maintenance shots are needed every four weeks for three to five years. allergen immunotherapy is usually used when other treatments like antisymptomatic medication are not satisfactory.