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Pets in the home and allergies – how to take a deep breath and look after both

What’s not to love about a cute pet? When they cause you to have an allergic reaction, that’s what. We show you how to minimize allergens in your home, so you can live happily alongside your favorite furry critter.


Dog sitting on the floor

A four-legged friend can bring much joy to a home, so it's no surprise so many of us have opted to share our living space with a beloved pet. But things can get tricky when you suffer from an allergy, and fur, feathers, and pet dander start to wreak havoc in your home.

Luckily, we've got the solutions to help you breathe easy. Our simple and effective tips will help minimize the number of allergens in your home, allowing you to cuddle up to your cat and hug your hound, surrounded by clean air and an allergy-free environment.

Understanding pet allergies

Before we discuss how to reduce pet allergens in the home, it's important to know what's causing them. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 30% of people suffering from allergies will be allergic to cats or dogs. But, you don't have to be allergic to your cat or dog to have an allergic reaction to them. How come? Because things like dust mites, pollen and mold from the outdoor environment can collect on their fur, which can be breathed in when you're near them, or deposited on carpets and upholstery, triggering a reaction.

And it's not just an animal's fur that can irritate; pet dander (microscopic dead skin cells) is the leading cause of pet-related allergies and is found on any animal with fur or feathers. Proteins in the pet's urine or saliva can also be a trigger for allergic reactions.

It's always best to seek an allergy test to determine if you're allergic to your pet, and to understand the exact cause.

How to reduce pet allergens in your home

That pesky pet dander can get everywhere, carried in the atmosphere and settling on surfaces like carpets, upholstery, clothing, and blankets – even remaining in the air for months. From cleaning your home to bathing your pup, we share the best tips and tricks to make your home a happy, healthy, allergy-free zone.

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Have you ever considered an air purifier to help you or your family deal with allergies?

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Get cleaning

Establishing a simple yet effective cleaning routine will help your living environment be free from irritants like pet hair, feathers, and dander. It will help eliminate any pet odors, too. If it's more of a deep clean that you need, you can follow these tips on spring cleaning your home.

  • Vacuum carpets, rugs, and furniture regularly. Use a high-efficiency particulate airbag (or HEPA) to capture microscopic particles like dander and dust mites.

  • Make sure you use a true HEPA filter that states printed test results at 0.3 microns of at least 99.97 percent. Without this assurance, other HEPA filters may only remove around 85 percent of particles and leave behind dander.

  • A lint brush works well on removing dander from upholstered furniture or even curtains. You can buy specific ones for removing pet dander.

  • Wash down hard surfaces like tiles, wood floors, tables, windowsills and even walls. A simple solution of hot water and multipurpose cleaner should do the trick, although you could also use products that help target dust mites, which cause similar allergic reactions to dander.

Tackle allergy breeding grounds

Most dogs or cats have their favorite basket, chair, or (if they're lucky) couch. But cozy as these might seem, these creature comforts serve as breeding grounds for allergens and are a perfect place for dander to settle.

  • Give the area where your pet sleeps a daily vacuum to keep dander at bay.

  • Where possible, wash any pet beds or bedding on a hot wash.

  • Discourage your pet from getting cozy on your plush throw or blanket (dander hot-spots). Removing them altogether is best, but if you like to pamper your pet, regular washing of these items will help.

  • Regular cuddles with your furry companion can be a delight, but this will also cause dander to collect on your clothes. Wash your clothing after each close encounter, or wear a different outfit when it's cuddle time.

Establish a no-pet zone

While pets can be the ultimate companion, it's not always a good idea to have them sleeping on your bed or napping next to you on the couch. Where your pet goes, the dander will follow, so consider putting a few home rules in place for your furry friend.

  • Having a no-pet zone can reduce the likelihood of any allergens in the room, meaning fewer major reactions and less cleaning!

  • Establishing your bedroom as a no-go area for your pet will reduce the chance of allergens entering your room and so disturbing your night's sleep.

  • Nighttime is the most extended amount of time you'll spend away from your pet each day, so an eight-hour break will help reduce any allergy symptoms.

  • Encourage your pet to have their own den or area where they can sleep and relax that's away from the person with the allergy. It may require breaking a habit or two, but it’s worth it!

Consider an air purifier

If you find the allergic reaction to your pet is compromising your living harmoniously under the same roof, it might be time to invest in a good quality air purifier. These devices work by removing airborne microscopic particles, and can be great for reducing allergens in the home, so helping to manage pet allergies. Here's the science behind how they work:

  • Air purifiers contain filters that trap microscopic particles, stopping most airborne pollutants from entering your lungs.

  • Pet-related allergens, like dander and proteins, are captured from the air, leaving you with an allergen-free atmosphere.

  • Air purifiers don't just remove pet allergens - dust, mold, and smoke can also be eliminated from the air in your home, reducing the chance of reactions from allergy sufferers.

  • Make sure the unit is powerful enough for the size of the room by checking its Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and frequency of air exchange.

  • As there are many different types of air purifiers on the market, you might want to seek professional advice about the model that's right for your allergies and your home.

Taking care of your pet to reduce allergens

Seeing as your pet may be the source of your allergies, you’ll also need to roll up your sleeves and tackle the issue head-on! Regular washing and brushing can help reduce dander on your pet and stop it from becoming an airborne irritant. Here's how:

  • Bathing your pet with plain and simple water is a safe and effective way to remove dander from their fur. A bath is usually a welcome event for dogs, but as cats don't like water, a damp cloth should suffice.

  • You can use pet shampoo for a more thorough clean or purchase specialist dander-banishing products, available from most pet stores. Check the recommended frequency of use for these products.

  • Wash any old towels or clothes straight after use in a hot wash to avoid any captured dander spreading around your home.

  • Grooming your pet is essential in removing dead hairs that are carrying dander and other allergens, otherwise destined for your carpets and floors. Don't attempt to do this yourself if your pet triggers your allergies, or if you must, then wear a mask.

So now you're armed with the tools to help make your home environment an wheeze-free zone, you'll be able to enjoy those precious moments with your pet without so much as a sniffle or sneeze. And remember, the more regularly you follow these tips, the better the results.

Originally published