Dander is made up of the minute scales from fur, hair, feathers or skin of animals. Every animal’s dander is different, which is why some people can tolerate dogs but not cats and vice versa. Most people with allergic reactions to animal dander are responding to dog or cat dander, but dander from birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses and many other animals can also cause problems, depending on the individual’s sensitivity. Sneezing, itchy and/or watery eyes, sinus congestion and even difficulty breathing can be caused by dander allergy. Dander is sticky and can survive for months in an environment. It attaches itself to dust.
There is no such thing as a true hypoallergenic animal, but some breeds of dogs do seem to cause fewer allergic problems than others. People with dander allergies can safely keep pets without fur or feathers, such as turtles, snakes or fish. But if you have someone in the home with a dander allergy who simply cannot give up their beloved creature, there are strategies you can follow to keep symptoms at a minimum.
- Keep animals out of the bedroom at all times, and create other pet-free zones in the home.
- Change the filters in your furnace and air conditioning frequently.
- Consider removing carpets and replacing them with tile, wood, or vinyl flooring. Wash throw rugs in hot water frequently.
- Use blinds instead of drapes, especially in bedrooms.
- Wash hands after handling animals, and never hold the animal close to the face.
- Launder bedding in hot water to remove dander that may travel into the bedroom on clothes or shoes.
- Use portable air purifiers in the home.
- Feed pets high quality pet food and consider a coat supplement. Both efforts will reduce shedding and increased flaking of dander from the pet.
- Vacuum frequently with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. For best results, invest in a central vacuum system. Unlike traditional vacuum cleaners, which re-circulate some of the dander and irritants back into the home environment, a central vacuum system will remove virtually all contaminants through the hose and into behind-the-wall tubes which lead to a sealed container away from living space, such as the basement, garage, or even a closet. This unit can then be easily emptied by a non-allergic member of the household.