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Animal allergies can make life miserable.

COUNTRYSIDE: In the March/ April, 2006 issue, Liz Hildreth from Wisconsin wrote about her allergies to rabbits and other animals. It saddens me that she seems to have decided to give up her dreams of owning livestock. It also shocks me that anyone would make a life altering decision based on one doctor's opinion.

I come from a long line of allergy sufferers and have animal allergies myself. I am allergic to dogs, cats, most livestock and the feed and hay they need. I still joyfully keep a small herd of dairy goats, five cats, two dogs, one horse, several chickens, a parakeet and some fish. However I have had to follow some hard and fast rules to keep my allergies at bay.

1. Research, research, research. Find out everything you can about your allergy. Most allergies can be controlled with simple steps and natural remedies. Don't let your physical conditions or one doctor's opinions keep you from your dreams. I suffer allergies, arthritis, plantar faciatis, depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome. I still manage to work full time and run my small homestead.

2. Go out and find a breeder of the animal that you wish to acquire. Work with the breeder's animals from six months to a year. Any allergy problem will turn up by then and you will also get a chance to see if you really like that kind of animal. That's how I ended up with goats. I wanted to milk a cow at first, but after working with the neighbor's cows I found I really couldn't stand them. So the next thing down on the list of milk animals was a goat. That was the best decision I ever made.

3. Try several different types of animals. You might not have as much of a reaction to horses or goats as you did to the rabbits. Once again remember to test yourself out on someone else's animals.

4. Keep your animals clean! Animal allergies are not caused by their hair but rather the dandruff or dander that comes from their skin and in some cases cat allergies are caused by their saliva. Brush them, clip them in the summer, clean their homes and run the vacuum on them regularly. Most livestock suppliers sell vacuums especially made for grooming, but the family canister vacuum works great too!

5. If you have a reaction to a new animal first find out if it had been dusted or dipped in insecticides or chemicals. Anecdotal evidence suggests that these chemical preparations can magnify an otherwise light allergy a hundredfold. I once had a terrible reaction to the animals at a petting zoo because of the spray that was used on them. My eyes were glued shut for three days!

6. Farm animals should never live in your house or garage. These creatures need their own quarters outside. If you suffer from allergies they should be at least 100 yards away and downwind from your home. The housing should be well ventilated and easy to clean. You should never have to lean halfway into a cage to clean it.

7. Keep clothes or a pair of coveralls for barn use only. Take them off and hang them outside when chores are finished. Allergy sufferers should wash these clothes every other day in very hot water. Or you could invest in the disposable paper coveralls that some vets use, although that could get expensive. If your allergies are severe add a paper dust mask to your barn outfit.

8. Use a saline nasal spray every time you come in from the barn. This helps to rinse allergens away from mucous membranes. Most allergy attacks happen because of a. build up of such allergens. This is probably why Liz' s rabbit problem didn't show up for five days. Studies have shown that the saline sprays work as well as some prescription nasal sprays. It's also a good idea to jump in the shower and rinse off after chores, especially in the summer when more of your skin comes into contact with allergens. Never, never go to bed at night without a shower if you are regularly taking care of animals.

9. Invest in some over the counter allergy meds and learn to take them before an allergy attack strikes. An anticipated allergy attack is always less severe. When I know I'm going to help my husband with the haymaking I take an allergy pill as soon as I get up in the morning. If it makes you feel better, you could have the allergist prescribe an allergy pill that is specifically for animal allergies. I recommend staying away from the ever-popular allergy shot because they have been shown to destroy the kidneys. One of my mom's best friends is now dying of kidney failure and the doctor told her it was most likely from lifelong allergy shots.

10. Last but not least, limit your animal contact! Find someone reliable to help you. A helpful neighbor, a spouse or a local 4-Her are good places to start. Do not snuggle or constantly hold your animals. Make sure they have water, feed and hay. Then get them someone of their own species for company.

Allergies that cause anaphylaxis are nothing to' scoff at and if you feel that your allergy is taking that route please seek medical attention ASAP! But, hay fever and animal allergies are not generally life threatening and are more of a quality of life issue. I feel that a life without animals would have less quality than a life with allergies. So I choose to suffer the allergies to keep my animals, especially my beloved herd of goats. It is a personal choice, but I encourage Liz and anyone like her to get a second opinion, some allergy remedies and not to give up livestock if that is your dream!--Holly Jo Evans, Pennsylvania
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Title Annotation:Country conversation & feedback
Author:Evans, Holly Jo
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:May 1, 2006
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