Author: Emily Martin, Allergychoices
For some people, welcoming a new pet into their home may mean never ending symptoms of allergic reactions; others may not have even considered living with a pet because of the unknown consequences of allergy to dogs, cats and more. While millions of pet owners struggle with the sensitivities of pet allergy, sublingual immunotherapy can make it possible to live healthfully with your pet.
Pet allergies are common throughout the U.S., with symptoms that include itchy eyes, nasal and sinus congestion, asthma, and eczema and/or hives. The most common pet allergy is seen in cat and dog dander; however, it is increasingly seen in hamsters, horses, gerbils and rabbits. For people whose jobs include contact with animals, pet or animal allergies can not only be a health issue, it can impact their ability to do their jobs.
We spoke with Dr. Theodor Habel, MD, provider at Allergy Associates of La Crosse to learn more about how sublingual immunotherapy treatment can relieve symptoms for pet owners and those who come in frequent contact with animals. Many patients worry, can I still live with my pet even if I have allergies? “Absolutely, especially with cats,” says Dr. Habel. By placing a small amount of allergen under your tongue, you are training your body to recognize the allergen and create a tolerance. Dr. Habel recalls a patient who he has been treating for about two years using the La Crosse Method Protocol. Before drop treatment, she couldn’t get near a horse or spend more than 30 minutes in homes with cats. Now, she is working with horses and able to spend time in cat-friendly homes without a second thought.
When compared to allergy injections, Dr. Habel strongly prefers sublingual immunotherapy for patients because of its safety. Cumulative doses of sublingual immunotherapy (or allergy drops) given multiple times daily can build a strong tolerance over time, rather than giving it in one dose, which can cause problems for some patients. Most patients who are treated for pet allergies continue treatment for at least three years to five years but feel symptom relief much sooner. Sublingual immunotherapy can give patients the hope of relieving allergy symptoms without having to say goodbye their furry friends.
In addition to sublingual immunotherapy, there are other things you can do to lessen your allergy symptoms from animals. For example:
- Brush your pet outside to rid dander
- Wash your pet on a regular basis
- Keep the pet outside of the bedroom of the allergic individual, or limit spaces where the pet can roam freely
For more tips on lessening your allergy symptoms with pets, read on.
An interesting side note: Pets can be allergic too. In recent years, sublingual immunotherapy for animals is becoming a popular way to treat the cause of their allergies. For pet lovers who don’t like giving allergic pets injections, a drop under the tongue can not only be a treat for the pet, it can also build long-term tolerance to the allergens that make them (and their sympathetic owners) miserable.