Allergies are a complicated field.  Anybody who suffers from them will know it’s not an exact science.  Sometimes you will feel totally down and out, and other times your eczema may have cleared up completely, and you find yourself wondering what you were worried about all that time.

It is tempting at times to throw your arms in the air in despair, and just say “to hell with it” in trying to manage your symptoms, or configure your life to ease your suffering.  However, allergies do follow certain trends.  You can predict, to an extent, what somebody with an allergy to one substance may also be allergic to.

In the case of dust, or more accurately allergy to dust mites, there is also a high likelihood of allergy to animal dander.  It should be up there on a dust allergy sufferer’s list of substances to avoid, in my case like the plague or kryptonite.

What is Animal Dander?

A common misconception of animal dander, or pet dander, is that this means animal hair.  While keeping your home free of animal hair is important, dander more specifically means the shed skin of a pet.  I can’t tell you the number of times a friend has said to me “oh don’t worry, I’ve hoovered up” or “my cat has short hair, it will be fine”.   No, it won’t be fine.

Animal dander, much like human dandruff, is tiny skin cells.  It will get into carpets, upholstery and fabrics – and wherever there is a cat there will be dander, however conscientious the owner is.  I’ve even been to homes whose previous owners have had cats, and come out looking stoned.

Animal dander is actually a lot more of a volatile trigger than dust.  I’m not sure of the exact science, but while dust mites provide me with a daily annoyance, animal dander comes at me like a juggernaut.

Dust is more like a Chinese water torture.  The drip, drip of sneezing, eczema and itchiness, without ever feeling the need to call for an ambulance.  Animal dander on the other hand hits me immediately.  It’s intoxicating power immediately reducing me to the prone position, rubbing my eyes and doing that annoying choking noise to try and relieve the itch in the roof of my mouth.

What Can We Do About Animal Dander?

For animal lovers everywhere, I’m afraid the answer is obvious.  Don’t keep a pet.  Of course, if you already have old Bobby, the faithful hound I wouldn’t dream of suggesting you turf him out on the street.  But he could, and probably should be your final pet.  Unless of course you would prefer to keep a whippet or some other outdoor animal who you could keep permanently outdoors, but I personally wouldn’t have the heart for that.  I’d keep bringing him inside, defeating the object.

My approach to allergies of late is simply a zero tolerance approach to everything.  You cannot expect to get on top of your symptoms if you’re not prepared to make sacrifices.  I’ve explained previously how this, for me, means using no perfumed products at all such as soap or bubble bath.  And if you have an allergy to pet dander, I personally wouldn’t advocate any weird and wonderful cleaning methods or hypoallergenic cats.  I’d simply say “this isn’t meant to be” and not keep one.  It’s not worth the lifetime of itching and anti histamine use.

The same is true about visiting people with pets.  Just don’t do it.  Respectfully decline.  I’ve suffered through parties, family gatherings and sleepovers for years, politely nodding and convincing myself I can get through it – all the while knowing the animal dander from the family cat would make it impossible for me to function like a human being.

Just as mental illness is now receiving the attention it deserves, give your allergic health the attention it deserves.  Don’t struggle through saying, “it’s only an allergy”.  It’s a health complaint that deserves respect as any other health complaint.  Avoid your triggers, get smart and get healthy!