To have an allergy is to have an exaggerated response by our immune systems to a protein, in the case of pets, to a protein found in the saliva, dander or urine of an animal. People are not allergic to the hair of an animal, as many believe. When these proteins are carried to the eye or nose or inhaled, allergic symptoms result.

The following measures can reduce allergic reactions and help us live more comfortably with our precious creatures.

• Keep pets out of the bedroom. Almost half or our life is spent sleeping in the bedroom, and keeping this area an animal-free zone can dramatically reduce exposure.
• Bathing your dog more frequently will reduce the dander left behind. Use conditioners when you do so to avoid dry skin or minimize flaking. Regular brushing will be better tolerated by your cat and will help greatly.
• Encase mattresses, cushions and pillows in plastic. Periodic steam cleaning of carpets is beneficial, but hardwood floors with washable/dry-cleaned area rugs is best.
• Your doctor can help, too, by prescribing medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, anti-inflammatories and some asthma treatments. Immunotherapy may also help manage allergies.

Doctors at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology provided much of the information for this story. You can reach them at 800-822-2762.

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