Coping with Cat Allergies

If you are among the 15 percent of Americans who suffer from pet-related allergies, here are strategies for reducing the potential for a reaction.
_ Allergies needn't keep you
from having a cat as a pet.

Some people develop an immune reaction to a certain protein produced in the sebaceous glands of a cat's skin. This allergen is found in a cat's dander -- the minute scales of dead skin that cats are constantly shedding. Allergens are also present in a cat's saliva and urine and are deposited on her fur when she licks herself. When the fur dries, the microscopic particles flake off and become airborne, making it easy for them to get into your nose (and lungs).

Cat allergens are very sticky, adhering to clothing, furnishings, and walls. The allergens can also stay in the air for hours and remain potent for weeks.

If you are experiencing allergic symptoms such as wheezing, sneezing, or rashes, consult an allergist. There are many types of allergies, and yours may not be pet-related. If you turn out to be allergic to cats, your allergist can design an appropriate regimen of medications, alternative therapies, or allergy shots to alleviate much of your suffering.

In addition, the coping tips on the next page can help you minimize your symptoms.

Continued on page 2:  Coping Tips