Cat allergies are one of the most common animal allergies. It manifests itself through typical symptoms, more or less intense depending on the sensitivity of the patients and the allergenic potential of the cats they have to deal with. Are antihistamines enough, or should you consider separating your cat? We are enlightened by Dr. Luc Colas, an allergist and clinical immunologist at the University Hospital of Nantes.
Cat hair is not the cause of allergies
Contrary to popular belief, cat hair, also called cat dander, does not in itself cause allergic symptoms. “Allergy to cats actually associated with allergens present on cat dander“, – emphasizes the allergist.
The most common allergen is Fel d 1 glycoproteinsecreted by the salivary and sebaceous glands of the cat. In other words, when a cat licks herself, she releases a more or less significant amount of saliva (and therefore Fel d1) onto her coat, which causes allergic reactions. And the doctor says:Cat dander is often more reactogenic than dog dander..”
Pay attention to cross allergies
Allergies can be only to cats or only to dogs. But it is also possible to be allergic to both. In this case, allergies often extend to the dander of other animals, such as rodents and horses. Then we talk aboutcross allergymainly caused Feld allergens4 or less Dropped d2.
Allergy to cats: what symptoms should alert?
Cat allergies can cause a range of symptoms related to:
It’s not uncommon to see bronchospasm (a rapid and involuntary decrease in bronchial diameter, editor’s note) in patients allergic to cat dander, adds Dr. Colas.
- From skin symptoms (urticaria or exacerbation of atopic eczema) can also be alarming, although these symptoms are less common.
Note that these symptoms can occur in different contexts:
- in the direct presence of a cat ;
- with indirect contact (deposition of allergens on the furniture, linen or floor in the room, even on the clothes of a regularly meeting cat owner, etc.)
- after intermittent contact (for example, after visiting friends who have a cat).
When and to what doctor to address?
If symptoms remain mild and tolerable, a visit to the doctor may be enough. If necessary, he will refer you to an allergist.
Cat allergies can be an opportunity to discover asthma that is not cared for or poorly cared for. “As soon as the breathing function is activatedyou should consult an allergist,” insists Dr. Kolas.
Before starting treatment, you must first Make sure it’s really a cat allergy. If you sneeze as soon as your pet approaches you, this does not necessarily mean that you are allergic to it. It is also possible that the animal roamed the street and be a carrier of allergenic pollen or ticks. When in doubt, always start with a consultation with your doctor before rushing to get medicines that are freely available at the pharmacy.
The diagnosis is mainly based on the analysis of the patient’s symptoms. From allergy tests may also refer a doctor for the second stage:
- skin test, also called prick testwith standardized extracts
- blood tests (specific IgE as prescribed by an allergist)
These tests are used to screen for immune memory associated with immediate allergy. A positive result does not necessarily mean you have an allergy. In some people, prick tests or specific IgE are asymptomatic, the allergist clarifies.
Allergy is diagnosed in the presence direct causal relationship between “allergic” symptoms and immune memory.
Can cat allergies go away on their own?
“The more we are exposed to our animal, the more we naturally desensitize.‘ confirms Dr. Kolas.
Why can a cat allergy develop overnight?
We are not born with allergies, we become them. We come into the world with the capital of tolerance to allergens and over time, without really knowing why, our body loses this tolerance and allergies take over. This explains why some people develop allergies after years of contact with their pet.
Male or female? Hypoallergenic? Choosing the Right Cat for Allergies
The size of a cat or the length of its coat does not matter with allergies. On the other side, unneutered cats are much more allergenic than females or their neutered counterparts. As ? Their sebaceous and salivary glands secrete more Fel d 1 due to higher testosterone levels. Therefore, it is better to sterilize the animal.
What about the so-called “hypoallergenic” cat breeds?
“No cat breed is 100% hypoallergenic.. Some shed less hair or produce less allergenic proteins, but that doesn’t mean they don’t cause an allergic reaction,” insists Dr. Colas, pointing out that within the same breed allergenic potential of each person varies depending on factors that cannot be predetermined.
If you are allergic to cats or have an allergic background and still want to get one, you may be interested in several breeds at a certain price:
- devon rex,
- russian blue,
- or Siberian.
“Whatever you choose (pedigree cat or not), to avoid the risk of being abandoned, take the time to meet with your future companion several times: play with him, wear it, feed it and monitor for symptoms. If not, go home in your clothes for a while. Repeat the operation several times before fixing. If you do not observe any reaction, this is rather a good sign, ”advises Dr. Kolas.
How to live with a cat if you are allergic to it?
A number of solutions allow you to coexist peacefully with your cat without the risk of aggravating your symptoms. spoiler, we will have to invest in cleaning. Our advice:
- Ventilate the interior daily;
- Invest in air purifier and in vacuum cleaner with bag and HEPA filter (high efficiency on suspended particles);
- Limit the cat’s access to certain rooms in the house (especially the bedroom and the sofa);
- Brush your cat outside and wash it regularly.if you are used to it, knowing that the level of the allergen will only decrease within 24 hours;
- Carpets prefer smooth floors (parquet, tiles);
- Roll up clothing to remove hair (also effective on sofa covers, cushions, etc.)
Finally, don’t forget wash your hands after touching the interlocutorand be sure to keep the tray clean.
A bet on specific pieces, “anti-allergens”?
Now there are crumbs artificially reduce the level of allergens released by cat dander. Coating these new pieces allows the allergen to remain trapped in the saliva and therefore find less marks on the hair, for example when the animal licks itself. “The idea is that the allergen remains in the cat’s saliva, potentially causing less clinical reactivity,” says Dr. Kolas, who, however, notes that more research is needed.
Treatment: what to do if you are allergic to cats?
What medicines to take?
Treatment is determined by good understanding between the patient and his doctor. First of all, antihistamines can overcome ENT and eye symptoms. “They are not at all effective in bronchospasm,” emphasizes, however, the allergist, who recommends the use of ventolin (Salbutamol) for rapid relief of respiratory symptoms.
For respiratory symptoms an appointment with an allergist should be made to assess respiratory function and the need for disease-modifying therapy.
How about desensitization?
Desensitization, or allergen immunotherapy, can be considered for adults and children, from 4-5 years. “We first evaluate benefit/limitation ratio, explains Dr. Kolas. In particular, desensitization will be of interest to cat owners who have not developed spontaneous tolerance to their animal and/or asthma. Desensitization then aims to restore the body’s tolerance to cat allergens.
The treatment lasts almost four years. It consists in the introduction daily (morning or evening) of cat dandruff extract in the form of drops. Purpose: to familiarize the immune system with allergenic proteins. “The first results are noticeable in the first 3-6 months treatment,” says the expert.
The treatment is then optimized according to the development of clinical symptoms: doses are gradually increased to avoid inconveniences such as tingling under the tongue or in the throat. And the allergist assures: “In the long term, it has never been shown to have a detrimental effect on the occurrence of other diseases. It is a treatment that offers more benefits than risks“.
Cat allergy vaccine?
Research published in May 2019 in the journal Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (source 1) indicates that Swiss researchers have succeeded in developing a vaccine that neutralizes the main allergen expressed in the saliva and sweat of catsFel d 1.
A total of 54 cats took part in the study. The procedure involved inducing an immune response against their own Fel d 1 proteins with a recombinant vaccine. Anti-Fel d 1 antibodies were indeed found in the treated cats, but three times lower than its original level. The vaccine was supposed to be on the market by 2022. However, she has not yet received the blessing of the health authorities. “We can also ask ourselves a question about the health of cats in the long term,” notes the allergist.