Allergy & Air on August 21, 2014 0 Comments When you brought your pet home, you probably hadn’t planned on sneezing, wheezing and itching. Fido and Fluffy don’t mean to, but they can create havoc if you have allergies and asthma. Even if you aren’t allergic, airborne pet odors can be irritating. While many people think animal fur causes allergic reactions, the problem actually stems from dander, which is composed of microscopic flakes from pet skin, saliva, dried urine and feces. These particles become airborne and cause a host of allergy and breathing troubles for sensitive individuals. The ammonia in cat urine also creates unpleasant reactions, such as watery eyes. Allergies from Animals are Common According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, about 10 percent of people are allergic to animals, with between 20 and 30 percent of asthmatics experiencing allergies to pets. Twice as many people have symptoms from cats compared to dogs, according to the American Lung Association. The standard advice from allergists to control allergic symptoms to pets is to remove animals from the home, but when Fido and Fluffy are full-fledged members of your family, that’s not an option. The good news is there are tactics to minimize your exposure to cat and dog allergens. Use Air Purifiers Pet allergens are lightweight and airborne, which means they can be captured by a high-quality air purification system. Opt for an air-cleaning system that is equipped with HEPA technology and is effective at removing ultra-small particles. To ensure that the purifier is effective against allergens, replace the filter regularly as directed. Since forced air heating and air-conditioning spread allergens around the house, install filters on bedroom ventilation grids. How to Control Animal Allergens An effective plan to control animal allergens in the home must include a system for regular cleaning, as pet allergens tend to have a jagged shape that allows them to cling to surfaces such as furniture, bedding and fabric. Lifting the allergens from the various surfaces in your home takes a multi-pronged approach. Use a HEPA Filter Vacuum Cleaner:Twice weekly, vacuum your carpeting, furniture and draperies with a high-quality, high-efficiency HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. This process will dislodge and remove dander buildup. It is also recommended to wear an allergy mask when vacuuming and removing the machine’s canister for cleaning. Steam Clean Carpeting Frequently:Carpeting is notorious for harboring pet dander. Steam cleaning every three months helps to remove embedded dander. Mop Uncarpeted Flooring & Wipe Down Walls:Two times a week, remove pet allergens from hard flooring with a damp mop or an electrostatic cloth. Do the same to the walls every three to six months. Wash Bedding Weekly:Cleaning your pet’s bedding on a weekly basis helps to minimize dander buildup. Wash all blankets and bedding covers in hot water. Bathe Pets Frequently:Washing pets on a regular basis can drastically cut down on dander. Wipe down their coats daily with a damp microfiber cloth. How to Manage the Litter Box As waste receptacles, litter boxes can cause unpleasant odors that can lead to problematic symptoms, including headaches and watery and burning eyes. Individuals with asthma are especially at risk of developing reactions. Prevent odor buildup with the following tactics: Clean the litter box regularly:Ammonia builds up over time and the more concentrated it becomes, the stronger it will smell and the more likely it will cause unpleasant physical symptoms. Scoop out feces at least once a day and change the litter every five days. Prior to changing the litter, prevent dust inhalation by spraying it with water, and wear an allergy mask and gloves to minimize exposure. Change your litter type: Rather than using standard kitty litter, which tends to produce dust and may contain fragrances that cause allergic reactions, try a hypoallergenic variety such as one made from pine or cedar sawdust, which are absorbent materials that neutralize ammonia. Keep the litter box in a well-ventilated area: Placing the box in a location where the ammonia odors can escape helps keep air clean. A nearby air purifier will also help. Grow Houseplants to Clean the Air If you can keep Fido and Fluffy from playing with them, houseplants are another great option for cleansing your indoor air of many odors and allergens. In fact, former NASA scientist B.C. Wolverton, author of the bestseller “How to Grow Fresh Air,” found in her research that houseplants are the quickest and most efficient filters of common air pollutants like ammonia. Of course, while houseplants are a great way to improve your indoor air quality, there’s no denying that an air purifier with a HEPA filter is still your strongest weapon in the fight against airborne pollutants, including many that houseplants can’t do anything about. Please Note: A few of the plants that were analyzed by NASA are poisonous to pets. So, before you fill your house with a bunch of houseplants, please make sure you do the proper research so you avoid unintentionally putting your furry family members in danger. Try these tactics for cutting down on indoor pet allergens, and you and your furry friends are sure to breathe easy.