It can be disappointing for children who want a cute, cuddly cat, but who are prevented from owning one because of sneezing, itchy eyes, and even hives. In fact, there are some people who cannot even visit homes where a cat is or has been present. Fortunately, it is possible to grow out of a cat allergy or at least become less reactive in the presence of felines.
A cat allergy is an immune system response; it occurs when a person’s immune system sees a cat’s saliva, urine, or dander as harmful and requiring defense. In response, the body develops antibodies to the cat, and each time the person is exposed to it, her immune system reacts and causes such symptoms as sneezing, runny nose, congestion, post-nasal drip, and itchy eyes, nose, throat, and roof of the mouth. An allergy may also be marked by coughing, pain, and pressure in the face, and swollen skin under the eyes. Sometimes, allergies can even lead to itchy skin and rashes.
A person who has asthma may have an even more serious reaction to cat allergens. In addition to any of the other symptoms, she may also experience breathing problems, pain, or tightness in the chest, wheezing, and sleep difficulties. The sleeping problems are typically due to wheezing and couching that interrupts sleep frequently or makes it difficult for the person to fall asleep in the first place.
Some people, particularly children, do eventually grow out of cat allergies. This may be because they develop immunity to the allergen, or they may get used to it. Others still have the allergy but develop a less intense response to exposure. As such, they may not notice their symptoms as much as they did before.
Unfortunately, many people do not grow out of these allergies, and they may have a reaction for their entire lives. To deal with them, many take allergy medicine when they are around cats, and some get injections, especially when they keep cats as pets in spite of allergies. Others may simply avoid cats altogether.
If a person wants to keep a cat as a pet despite allergies, he cannot depend on the possibility of growing out of them. To help minimize allergen exposure, it may help to bathe the cat on a regular basis. Frequent vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and cleaning may also help, as can opting for wood or tile flooring instead of carpets and blinds instead of curtains. This is because carpets, curtains, and upholstered furniture harbors allergens. It may also help to keep the pet out of the bedroom and use air filters to reduce allergens in the air.