Ways to Sneeze Less and Snuggle More 

Here are some simple tips and tricks that will allow most of us with mild to moderate allergies to happily and for the most part, comfortably share our home with pets. It’s important to:

1. Wash your hands. It’s not pet fur that causes people to sniffle and sneeze. It’s the allergens carried by dander (dead skin flakes), saliva and urine. So even if you have a hairless pet or one with a coat that doesn’t shed much, you’re still going to be exposed to allergens when you pet him. And some people aren’t allergic to pets so much as to the pollen or mold that comes in on a pet’s coat after he’s been outside. Washing your hands thoroughly after petting your animal helps remove those allergens.

2. Wash your furniture. Well, not the actual furniture. If you cover chairs and sofas with washable throws or slipcovers, you can launder them frequently. The same goes for your floor. Put down washable throw rugs if you have hard floors, and dust, sweep, mop and vacuum regularly. Use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter on larger rugs and carpet. A HEPA filter traps very small particles, so it’s especially useful for pet dander, which is lightweight, small and sticky.

3. Wash your pet. Bathing pets weekly helps keep dander levels low, and it typically won’t harm your pet’s coat or skin, if you choose a gentle shampoo made for pets. Between baths, give your pet’s coat a gentle rub with fragrance-free, hypoallergenic baby wipes to remove dander or pollen. If possible, assign this task to a non-allergic spouse or child, and have that person do it outdoors to minimize the spread of dander and other allergens.

4. Clothe your pet. No kidding. Putting a clean pet T-shirt on your clean dog or cat will reduce the spread of dander as well as limit the amount of pollen or mold he picks up on his coat when he’s outdoors. It also allows you to pet him while limiting your contact with his dander-carrying fur. (But it’s still a good idea to wash your hands afterwards.)

5. Shake hands — but don’t kiss. Who doesn’t love a big slurp from a happy dog? People with allergies — that’s who. A dog’s saliva contains allergens and can cause skin reactions in some people when they’re licked. To minimize the spread of allergens, teach your dog from puppyhood not to lick you or other people. And remember that cat saliva can cause allergic reactions, too.

6. Treat symptoms with medication. Many people find relief with over-the-counter antihistamine products or steroid sprays available by prescription. Some people who are allergic to cats or dogs respond well to allergy shots. Talk with your doctor about options to help manage your allergy symptoms.

7. Ban pets from the bedroom. This one is tough, and not everyone is willing to do it, but if you have allergies, making your bedroom a pet-free zone can help you sleep more comfortably. If you’re not willing to do that, at least keep pets off your bed. When that’s not possible — or if you just don’t want to do it — place a washable throw on the bed for your pet’s use, put dust mite covers on your mattress and pillows, and get used to living with a stuffy nose and puffy eyes. For many people, the companionship is worth the consequences.

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