It's no secret that pets can cause allergies, but what many people don't know is that pet dander is the main culprit. Pet dander is made up of microscopic patches of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds and other animals with hair or feathers. These tiny particles can remain suspended in the air for a long period of time and can easily adhere to furniture, bedding, fabrics, and many other household items. In addition to dandruff, people with pet allergies can also be allergic to proteins found in pet saliva, urine, and feces.
Physical contact with pet dander can cause contact dermatitis, skin rash, hives, or worsen respiratory problems in people with asthma. Animals without fur, such as reptiles, amphibians, and fish, don't shed dander, so they are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. The term “hypoallergenic” is often misinterpreted to mean that these pets are guaranteed to be “safe” for people with pet allergies. However, all warm-blooded animals shed small scales of skin called dandruff (it's like dandruff in humans, but it's much harder to see).
When a person is allergic to animals, dandruff may be the cause of the problem. If you can't avoid being around the animal, you can prevent pet dander from remaining by making sure that all furniture, rugs, and clothing are cleaned immediately and often after contact. Wash sofa covers, pillows, curtains, and pet beds often and keep pets away from carpets and furniture. Some pets produce fewer allergens than others so they may be better options for people with pet allergies.
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