If you have pet allergies, you know how bad the sneezing, itching and watery eyes can get. You’ve lived through fits of coughing, scratching and feeling like the pain will never end.
It’s hard, because avoiding pets in life can be tough, if not impossible. Maybe you’re allergic to your own pet but can’t fathom the thought of giving them up. Maybe a pet came as a package deal with your significant other, and you know how strong their bond is.
Regardless of why you’re still spending time around pets, you’ve surely wondered how bad the allergies can get. It sometimes feels like you can barely breathe when you’re around them — like your airway is being restricted.
So is it possible to die from pet allergies?
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, usually caused by things like insect stings or nuts, for example.
According to Healthline, when a person comes into contact with an allergen capable of causing anaphylaxis, they might experience symptoms like:
- Mental confusion
- Throat swelling
- Weakness or dizziness
- Blue skin
- Rapid or abnormal heart rate
- Facial swelling
- Low blood pressure
Fortunately, most pet allergies aren’t typically severe enough to cause reactions like those. They generally come in the form of itchy and watery eyes.
However, having those worse reactions is not entirely unheard of.
Often, doctors can’t narrow down what allergen might have caused anaphylaxis in someone, especially if the patient has never experienced it before.
They might advise sufferers to stay away from several allergens that could have triggered the reaction, just to be safe.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology noted a possible case of anaphylaxis in a 3-year-old boy after being licked by his dog while riding in a car seat. Although the conclusion wasn’t definitive, research suggested proteins in the dog’s saliva could have triggered the reaction.
In another instance, Jill Ferguson experienced allergies so extreme that she’s now forced to carry an epinephrine auto injector with her full time. Jill married into a family with a cat who, despite putting her in a dangerous situation, she loves. According to Jill, if the cat even touches her, she can’t breathe and is instantly at risk of anaphylaxis.
In other cases of pet allergies, some people also suffer from asthma attacks.
Allergens that cause moderate reactions, like runny noses, are the same ones that can cause breathing problems, too. If a person touching or playing with a cat continued to do so, even after feeling their asthma kick in, they could potentially be in a deadly situation.
With a restricted airway, if a person stays in contact with a cat, they could die. Of course, in allergy cases this severe, most people know not to stay near pets for too long. The risk, however, is still prevalent.
How to Prepare
If you suffer from pet allergies, the best thing to do is talk to your doctor.
Your doctor can prescribe a plan for moving forward, especially if you interact with animals regularly.
If your allergies are severe and your doctor thinks you could be at risk of anaphylaxis, the doctor might prescribe an EpiPen, or epinephrine auto injector, that you’ll carry around wherever you go.
Check out these tips for those pet lovers who suffer from pet-related allergies:
Sometimes, even if you don’t live with or interact with pets regularly, you’ll still find yourself in their company — think planes, trains or other public spaces.
Again, talk with your doctor to find the best solution. They might prescribe certain allergy medicines to help relieve symptoms anytime you know there’s a chance you’ll be in contact with a pet.
If you live with a pet, on the other hand, there are certain precautions you can take to help avoid regular allergy flare-ups:
- Keep your bedroom pet-free and change the sheets regularly.
- Change your clothes before you get into bed, and make sure to keep clothes with pet dander in a separate laundry room.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Get your family on board, and make sure they follow the same rules.
Tips like these could help ease your day-to-day allergy suffering — but remember, the best way to help prevent serious allergic reactions is to talk with your doctor.