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Medical News Today: Am I allergic to my dog?

People who are allergic to dogs may experience a rash, hives, or watery eyes when exposed to dog saliva or dog dander.

In many cases, symptoms of a dog allergy are mild, and a person may still be able to live with a dog if they can manage their symptoms. Some home remedies can reduce symptoms. However, the only truly effective way to eliminate dog allergies is to avoid exposure to dogs.

In this article, we look at symptoms of allergic reactions to dogs and ways to manage them, including home remedies and medical treatments.

Am I allergic to dogs?

man sneezing because of dog allergy
A runny nose and sneezing may be an indication of an allergy to dogs.

Specific symptoms and when they occur depend on the severity of the allergy. People who have severe allergic reactions to dogs may experience symptoms soon after exposure, while those with more minor allergies may take longer to develop symptoms.

Symptoms include:

  • a skin rash that is red or consists of small, red, raised bumps called hives
  • nasal congestion
  • a runny nose and sneezing
  • itchy, red, and watering eyes
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • tightness in the chest and shortness of breath

Home remedies

cute puppy peeking out between owners feet at bottom of bed
Not allowing dogs in the bedroom will help to reduce dog allergy symptoms.

If a person lives with a dog, it is difficult to make the environment allergen-free. Dog dander (dead skin cells) can linger in the air for a long time and can stick to household items, such as curtains, furniture, bedding, and carpets.

Hypoallergenic breeds of dogs shed less than others so they may be less likely to cause allergic reactions. However, some studies have found that homes with hypoallergenic breeds may still contain as many allergens as homes with other breeds.

The only sure way to eliminate dog allergies is by avoiding contact with dogs. However, if a person does spend time with dogs, the following home remedies may help them to manage symptoms:

  • Using a saline sinus rinse. Rinse the nostrils using a mixture made of 3 teaspoons of salt (iodine free), 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and 8 ounces of warm water. Use an ear dropper to put the solution into the nostril or purchase a sinus rinsing device from a pharmacy or online.
  • Plant supplements. Taking certain plant supplements, such as those containing rosmarinic acid, may reduce allergy symptoms according to a 2014 study.

Lifestyle tips that can reduce the impact of dog allergies include:

  • avoiding touching eyes or face after contact with dogs
  • washing hands with soap after contact with dogs
  • avoiding close contact with dogs, such as hugging or kissing them
  • using a vacuum cleaner designed to trap and contain airborne allergens
  • cleaning the house, washing the bedding weekly, and keeping the house tidy
  • cleaning more often during winter months
  • restricting dogs to specific rooms or spaces
  • keeping dogs out of the bedroom and off furniture
  • bathing dogs every 1 to 2 weeks
  • wearing a dust mask and gloves while cleaning or in areas with dogs
  • brushing and cleaning dogs outdoors when possible

If anyone is considering bringing a dog into their home, they should do an allergy test or undertake a trial period before committing to this.

Medical treatment

There are over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications available that can help reduce or resolve the symptoms for people who are allergic to dogs.

OTC remedies for dog allergies include:

Antihistamines

Antihistamine medications block histamine, a compound that helps initiate local immune responses and cause allergy symptoms. Popular OTC brands for long-term exposure may contain loratadine, cetirizine hydrochloride, or fexofenadine hydrochloride.

Antihistamines can be bought online or obtained on prescription from a doctor.

Nasal decongestants and nasal corticosteroids

These medications help reverse the inflammation caused by immune responses and relieve nasal congestion. Some nasal corticosteroids are now available without a prescription and can be purchased online.

Immunotherapy

An allergist (a specialist in diagnosing allergies) may treat severe or chronic allergy symptoms using immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots.

Immunotherapy involves injecting allergens into a person in gradually increasing amounts. These allergy shots help a person to build a tolerance to allergens. It usually takes several sessions over several months to complete immunotherapy.

Other treatments

Many people with pet allergies also have asthma, and exposure to the pet allergens can cause asthmatic episodes or worsen a person’s symptoms. In these situations, a doctor may prescribe inhalable corticosteroids or bronchodilators that help keep the airways open.

Causes

Dogs produce a variety of proteins that cause allergies in some people. The highest concentrations of these proteins are in dog saliva, with lower amounts found in dander and urine.

Dander tends to build up on hair follicles, so dog hair usually carries a large number of allergens.

Diagnosis

person having allergy test
A skin-prick test can be used to identify the cause of an allergic reaction.

If a doctor thinks that a person may be allergic to dogs, they will refer them to an allergist.

In most cases, an allergist will use a skin-prick test to diagnose allergies.

During a skin-prick test, an allergist will put a droplet containing a tiny amount of dog proteins onto the skin. They will then make a small prick in the skin, allowing the mixture to enter the body.

Most people who are allergic to the mixture will have a response within 15 to 30 minutes.

Sometimes, an allergist will decide that an individual who thinks they are allergic to dogs is actually responding to other allergens commonly found on dogs or dog hair, such as dust or pollen.

Takeaway

People who are allergic to dogs can get relief from symptoms by avoiding dogs and places where there are dogs. Many people choose to manage their symptoms by making lifestyle adjustments, such as more frequent housecleaning, but this can be extremely challenging.

OTC medications, such as antihistamines and nasal decongestants, can also help a person reduce or manage their allergy symptoms.

People with more severe or chronic dog allergies should speak with a doctor about prescription medications and therapies that can help manage symptoms.

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