Developing a pet allergy doesn't mean you have to give up your fur baby – here's why

·2 min read

Discovering you're allergic to your pet is hardly an ideal scenario. "I make this really poor joke that most people would rather get rid of their allergist as opposed to getting rid of their pets because they're family members," allergist Dr. Julie Kuriakose, tells Yahoo Life.

But, Kuriakose says, there are several options if you're allergic to your pet — and they don't necessarily involve finding a new home for your furry family member.

"Unfortunately, any person can develop pet allergies at any time, but you may be more susceptible if you have a family history of allergic rhinitis or allergic asthma," Kuriakose says. You can be allergic to several things about your pet, she points out, including your animal's dander or skin cells, saliva and urine.

Kuriakose says she regularly hears several myths about pet allergies that are important to clear up. Those include:

  • If you're allergic to one animal, you're allergic to all of them. "That's absolutely not true," Kuriakose says.

  • Hypoallergenic pets are a thing. "It is a total marketing myth," Kuriakose says. "I see plenty of patients every day that are reacting to their 'hypoallergenic' cat or dog." That said, there are some pets that are more low-allergy than others.

  • You can only be allergic to cats and dogs. Not true, Kuriakose says, noting that she sees patients with allergies to rabbits, birds and hamsters, too.

Not sure if your symptoms are due to a pet allergy? These are some of the biggest signs of pet allergies, per Kuriakose:

  • sneezing

  • runny nose

  • itchy eyes

  • congestion

  • watery eyes

  • postnasal drip

For some people, being exposed to a pet that they're allergic to can trigger asthma symptoms, coughing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, itching and hives, she says. "The key is to be informed, see your allergist and get tested so you know exactly what your triggers are," Kuriakose says.

If you find that your symptoms are due to pet allergies, you have a few options, Kuriakose says, including taking medications to control your symptoms and undergoing allergy immunotherapy — a series of injections that build tolerance in your immune system to allergen triggers and reduce your symptoms in the long-term.

But, again, talk to a doctor first. "Before you run to your local pharmacy, and pick up some over-the-counter medicine, make sure you see a board-certified allergist so you know the proper treatment for your symptoms," Kuriakose says.

Video produced by Kat Vasquez

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