If you’re allergic to your pet, you’re not alone. Cat and dog allergies are incredibly common, affecting 10–20% of the population worldwide. But this doesn’t mean that every 2 in 10 people are doomed to remain petless. Many diagnosed with a pet dander allergy choose to keep their furry family members.
You can minimize your allergy symptoms, depending on the severity, if you know how to get rid of pet dander in your home. It takes some extra work, but the benefits of having a pet are worth it to many.
So whether you’ve recently developed an allergy to your dog or want a cat but know you’re allergic, there’s a chance you can make it work.
Understanding Your Dander Allergies and Their Severity
Allergy symptoms vary enormously from one person to the next. You might experience some mild sniffling and itchy eyes after petting a cat; someone else might burst into hives and have a life-threatening asthma attack when they enter the room.
The severity of your allergy will play a significant role in how well you can tame your symptoms by reducing pet dander in your home. Common allergy symptoms include:
- Runny nose
- Red or itchy eyes
- Shortness of breath
- Skin rash or hives
It’s also important to determine what you’re allergic to. You might not even be allergic to your pet, but something on their fur—like plant pollen from that plant they jump into on your daily walk.
Your doctor can test your allergies to determine what exactly you’re allergic to and to what degree. They can also evaluate any other allergies you have, like pollen or mold allergies, that could be making a mild pet allergy appear worse than it is.
What Is a Pet Dander Allergy, Anyway?
You’re allergic to pet dander, but what does that mean exactly?
Furry animals, like cats and dogs, have allergen proteins in their skin and saliva glands. These allergen proteins cling to their skin and fur, so when they shed dry skin (called dander), they also shed these allergens.
As a result, reducing the amount of dander in your home can help minimize your symptoms.
Additionally, the breed and how quickly their fur grows or sheds can affect how allergic you are to the animal. Like people, one cat or dog is different from the next. Hypoallergenic pets are animals that still produce allergens but shed less dander, making them less allergy-inducing.
How Long Does Pet Dander Stay in a House?
Pet dander spreads easily throughout a home due to its small size and ability to stick to any surface. On average, pet dander lasts in a house for 4 to 6 months.
10 Tips to Seriously Reduce Pet Dander
If, and only if, your allergies aren’t life-threatening, you can use the following methods to reduce pet dander in your home. You can’t eliminate pet dander entirely, but you can reduce it enough to make your allergies more manageable.
1. Settle on an Allergy-Free Room
If you or a family member is allergic to a pet you own, keep one room allergy-free by making it off-limits to that pet. Doing so allows your pet to roam the rest of the house but ensures that the person with allergies has a safe space to avoid symptoms.
Ideally, the chosen room should be the allergic person’s bedroom, as allergy-free rest is vital to a good night’s sleep. You can further reduce the chance of allergens in their bedroom by using allergen-resistant bedding.
2. Use HEPA Air and Vacuum Filters
Your HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) has a filter that blocks debris from circulating through your vents and the rest of your home.
HEPA filters are High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters that trap 99.97% of particles, including pet dander. Using these filters provides extra protection against pet dander in the air.
When you own a pet, you also want to replace your A/C filters more often to keep them working at total efficiency. Typically, it’s best to replace your filters every 90 days. If you have a pet, every 60 days is better. If you have more than one pet that you’re allergic to, you may even shrink that to every 30-45 days.
We also recommend getting HEPA filters for your vacuum cleaner. Vacuums often stir up dust and allergens as you clean, but a HEPA filter can help keep the dander where it belongs—in the vacuum.
3. Create a Cleaning Schedule
Cleaning often helps reduce the amount of pet dander in your home, but it’s necessary to keep up with a regular cleaning schedule to prevent your pet’s dander from adding up to symptom-inducing amounts.
You’ll want to regularly:
- Vacuum your floors and soft furnishings.
- Wipe off counters as well as leather and wood furniture.
- Dust surfaces that collect dust, like ceiling fans and shelves.
- Wash bedding, throw blankets, and pillows.
- Wash pet beds and toys.
Cat dander can also stick to your walls, so you’ll want to remember to clean your walls (though you don’t have to do this as often).
It’s also recommended to deep clean the rest of your house a few times a year and have your air ducts cleaned every few years.
4. Declutter Before You Clean
If you own a lot of stuff you’re not using, consider donating it. If there are shoes, toys, or laundry piles strewn about, pick them up before grabbing the vacuum.
Decluttering makes cleaning easier and allows you to do a better job. (No more cleaning around that corner!) It also reduces the amount of surface area in your home where dust and pet dander can collect and hide.
5. Replace Fabric Flooring and Furniture
Dander loves fabric.
A carpet is a haven for pet dander and fur, easily collecting it and burying it in its fibers until the end of time. Hard flooring such as hardwood, tile, and linoleum are much easier to keep clean of allergens.
Fabric furniture also traps dander better than their alternatives, resulting in build-up over time. Built-up pet dander then worsens symptoms and stirs into the air when you touch or move these items. Be sure to choose blinds over fabric curtains and leather couches over fabric ones.
6. Try to Enforce a “No Pets on the Furniture” Rule
We know that this tip is one of the hardest to follow for those who love cuddling their pet during movie night.
But furniture is an easy place for dander to collect, especially if it’s where your pets spend the day resting or where you pet them. For this reason, it’s generally considered best for people with pet allergies not to let their pets on their furniture.
If this feels impossible, you can reduce the impact by avoiding fabric furniture, cleaning your furniture more often, and wearing clothing you can change out of after your cuddle time.
7. Regularly Bathe Your Pet
One of the best tips for living with pet allergies and getting rid of dander is to bathe your pet often—weekly if possible. Regular baths help wash away the dander and loose fur that would otherwise end up all over your house.
And contrary to popular belief, not all cats hate water, and many cats can be trained to withstand and even enjoy baths.
When giving your pet a bath, be sure to only use products appropriately labeled for your dog or cat. Your vet can always make safe recommendations if you’re ever unsure what to use.
Brushing is another option for long-haired animals that may shed more often or that you can’t bath every week. You can also try a pet dander remover that claims to reduce dander when applied to your pet’s coat.
8. Consider Buying an Air Purifier or Two
More people have begun using air purifiers in recent years, and joining them may help reduce your pet allergy symptoms.
Air purifiers help clean the air in your home of allergens, mold, and smoke particles by sucking the air in and filtering it as it goes out. Air purifiers have proven to work but are not enough to eliminate pet dander on their own because they don’t account for the dander that has settled on home surfaces.
While you shouldn’t rely solely on air purifiers, they make a great addition to the other tips in this article to further reduce pet dander. Consider getting air purifiers for the rooms where your pet spends the most time.
9. Take Care of Any Other Allergy Sources
When you have your doctor test for pet allergies, have them test for all your allergies. As we briefly mentioned above, allergies to other sources can add to your dander allergies, resulting in even worse symptoms.
Common allergies experienced in the home include pollen, dust mites, cleaning supplies, and mold.
Knowing these sources allows you to eliminate those allergies and make your pet allergy symptoms more manageable.
10. Ask Your Doctor About Pet Allergy Treatment
Ideally, if your pet allergies are minimal, knowing how to reduce pet dander in the home will be enough to live comfortably. If your allergies are strong enough that reducing pet dander alone isn’t enough, there are some treatments and medicines that can help.
Antihistamines in the form of nasal sprays or pills can often reduce symptoms. For some, immunotherapy (also called allergy shots) can eliminate allergic reactions over time. Your doctor can make the right recommendations for you.
Pet Allergies Don’t Have to Be the End
An allergy, whether old or new, doesn’t have to be the deciding factor in whether you can keep your pet or bring one home. For many people out there, pets are family. If your allergies aren’t life-threatening, controlling the pet dander in your home can mean coexisting peacefully.
Pets take work, and they take a little more when allergies are present. If you own a pet, be sure to reward yourself with OpenHouse Home Insurance. Owning a pet is one of the many lifestyle rewards we offer that can shrink your premium.