If you have asthma, you know the tell-tale signs: tightness in your chest, shortness of breath, coughing, and wheezing. You understand the panic and anxiety that follows when you sense an attack coming on. And you likely know that many of the symptoms of asthma can also be a signal of a different problem – like allergies.
And since allergies and asthma often go hand-in-hand, you may wonder which your pet’s hair is impacting. Everyone knows that pet hair can spur an allergic reaction. But can it do the same for your asthma?
Is there a connection between pet hair and asthma?
The Pet Hair-Asthma Connection: What is Animal Dander?
Although we normally think of pet hair or fur as the culprit behind our respiratory problems, the real issue lies in something else – dander. Dander is the protein that’s found in skin, hair, saliva, and waste. These tiny particles of protein float through the air and can be easily inhaled. And when they enter your lungs, chaos can ensure.
The Pet Hair-Asthma Connection: How Does Dander Affect Your Body?
Your body senses these invaders and sends your immune system into overdrive – pumping out a chemical called histamine. Histamine alerts your immune system cells and calls them to come deal with the invader. This is what causes your skin to become red and inflamed. Unfortunately, all of this is an overreaction. Your body isn’t really in danger from the dander, it just thinks it is.
Depending on how sensitive your body is to pet dander, coming into contact with it can provoke a wild variety of responses, from itchy skin and eyes to sore throats and difficulty breathing.
And if you have asthma, your body’s histamine can spark an attack. If your asthma is triggered by pet dander or other allergens, you may have a kind called ‘allergic asthma.’
How Do I Know if My Pet is Triggering My Asthma?
If you’re wondering whether your asthma could be triggered by your pet’s dander, there are a couple of things you should consider…
Be Tested for Allergies.
If you believe you may have a pet allergy, there’s a simple way to find out. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who will test you for allergies using a skin prick test or a blood test. These are your most reliable methods for discovering any allergies you may have.
Be Aware of Allergy Symptoms.
Depending on the severity of your allergy, you may not notice a reaction for up to 48 hours after contact. Because of this, you may assume that the reaction is due to something more recent. This is why it’s important to note when you show signs of an allergic reaction and consider the possibility that it could have happened because of something you came into contact with within the past two days.
Mild allergy symptoms include itching, redness, sneezing, and coughing. More severe symptoms include all of that as well as rashes, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. If you notice symptoms like this after coming into contact with your pet or your pet’s hair, there’s a good chance that you could have an allergy that’s exacerbating your asthma.
What if My Asthma is Aggravated by My Pet?
If you suffer from asthma and have a pet whose dander is triggering attacks, you should see your family doctor as soon as possible. He can help you come up with a plan to manage your asthma effectively.
In addition, you should keep pets away from your bedroom or general living area, bathe them regularly, and invest in a quality Fur Magic brush or roller to keep your furniture pet hair-free. The cleaner you keep your home from pet hair and dander, the better off your asthma will be.
And take note that if you decide to give your pet up for adoption, you may continue to experience symptoms until all the pet dander has dissipated.