Cat Allergy

Overview

Cat allergy is an allergic response to the proteins found in a cat’s skin cells, saliva, or urine. Cat allergies are usually triggered by dander (dead flakes of skin). Symptoms of a cat allergy include a runny nose and sneezing and can contribute to asthma. The only way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid cats. However, certain medications can be used to treat symptoms as needed, and some people opt to use immunotherapy to acclimate the body to cat allergens.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of cat allergy resemble those of hay fever, including sneezing, runny nose, itchy or red eyes, itchy nose or throat, postnasal drip, and cough. Some people may also have an allergic reaction to cats that causes skin inflammation, hives, eczema, and itching. If someone is continuously exposed to cat allergens, the nasal passages experience chronic inflammation that can cause sinus infections and trigger asthma.

Cat allergy may be confused with other conditions that cause sneezing and a runny nose, such as a cold. Doctors diagnose cat allergy by examining the nose and asking about symptoms. An allergy specialist can give a more precise diagnosis by performing an allergy skin test. The skin test pricks small amounts of suspected allergens into the skin to see which ones provoke an allergic reaction. Cat allergy typically causes a red, itchy bump. If a skin test is not possible, a blood test detects allergy-causing antibodies to different allergens.

Causes

Allergies are caused by an immune system reaction to foreign substances called allergens. When an allergen is inhaled, the immune system responds by producing inflammation in the nasal passages or lungs. Allergens from cats come from dander, saliva, and urine. Cat dander can remain in the air for a long time and easily collects in furniture, carpeting, and clothes. Cat saliva can also stick to different surfaces. People are more likely to develop a cat allergy if pet allergies or asthma run in their family. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment Information . . .

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