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Allergies are not to be sniffed at; RECORD PETS.

Byline: By NEILMcINTOSH

ALTHOUG Hit is now but a distant memory, I was unfortunate enough to develop a medical problem while at Veterinary College.

Inexplicably, and without warning, I became allergic to cats.

The situation became so bad that you only had to bring a cat into the room and, within 10 minutes, I would be unable to see due to the puffiness around my eyes.

My breathing would become wheezy and I would flee for fresh air and try to wait calmly for the symptoms to subside.

Most people do not understand that you tend to develop allergies to substances that you have met before. You cannot, for example, be allergic to strawberries the first time you eat them.

A second or a millionth encounter with them could, however, trigger an allergic response. This is the rationale behind pregnant women avoiding nuts' it is hoped that preventing exposure of the foetus will avoid subsequent allergy in the child.

In reality, allergic reactions are a daft response by the immune system to harmless substances.

Take the hay fever sufferer who inhales pollen, for example. The body tries to rid itself of the material by causing sneezing and runny eyes. If you are allergic to food, the body will attempt to remove the allergen by creating vomiting and diarrhoea.

Quite why my silly body decided to mount an aggressive allergic response to the poor old cat is beyond me, but the fact that it did certainly threatened my veterinary career.

I was lucky to respond to a long course of Hyposensitisation.

This technique, which we also use in animals, involves regular injections of tiny quantities of the allergen (in my case cat dander) so that, over months, the immune system becomes bored and gives up its inappropriate response.

I still avoid touching my eyes or skin until I have washed.

It is most likely that the actual part of the cat that caused my allergy was a glycoprotein called Fel d1. This is found in cat skin, sebaceous glands and in saliva. As cats groom, Fel d1 is spread throughout the coat and pretty soon the entire cat's environment is full of the stuff.

This is why just vacuuming a house will not stop allergic symptoms.

The Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) reports this month on an American company, Allerca Inc, based in San Diego, which hopes to be able soon to breed a hypoallergenic cat that will be suitable to be kept by allergy sufferers.

But wait! Before you all cry 'genetic modification', rest assured that this has been done by identifying individuals that produce very little Fel d1 and by selectively breeding them.

Until then, sufferers will just have to keep cats out of the bedroom and living area and replace carpets with wooden, laminate or plastic flooring.

There is more information on the fantastic organisation that is FAB at www.fabcats.org and on Allerca at www.allerca.com

SHOW NEWS

November 25: Land O'Burns Canine Club's Open Show in the Magnum Leisure Centre, Harbourside, Irvine.

November 26: Old English Sheepdog Club's Championship Show in the Loreburn Hall, Dumfries at 10.30am.

FUTURE SHOW

December 16: Hunt, Point, Retrieve Club of Scotland's Open Show in Auchterarder. Schedules from Marion Waddell, 2 Auchengree Road, Glengarnock, Ayrshire KA14 3BU. Tel/fax: 01505 685539. Entries close December 1.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 23, 2006
Words:556
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