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Cat allergy? Try tea and sympathy.

Cat allergy? Try tea and sympathy

Cats are notoriously fastidious. But each cleansing lick of their rough tongues brushes a fine coating of feline proteins across the fur, and the proteins can accumulate for years in carpeting and upholstery. Produced in the animal's salivary and sebaceous glands, these proteins trigger the runny eyes, stuffy nose and wheezing that characterize cat allergy in millions of Americans, including an estimated 30 percent of asthmatics. Physicians, usually advise cat owners who develop the allergy to find their animals a new home and stock up on antihistamines. But allergy sufferers may soon receive an additional recommendation: Treat carpets and furniture with a spray containing tannic acid, a compound found in oak bark, coffee, cocoa and tea.

Over the past six years, several research teams have shown that tannic acid can chemically alter house dust, pollen and dust-mite antigens so that they no longer elicit allergic reactions. In homes with up to three cats, a commercially available tannic acid spray also dramatically reduced carpet levels of the primary cat allergen, according to new research led by allergist Jeffrey D. Miller of Danbury, Conn., and Thomas A.E. Platts-Mills of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

The team gauged antigen levels in seven homes by vacuuming a square meter of carpet for two minutes. They took samples before, 24 hours after and one week after spraying the carpet with a 3 percent solution of tannic acid in water. Homeowners kept cats off the carpets the day following treatment.

On average, the spray initially reduced antigen levels to about 6 percent of pretreatment levels. Six days after the cats returned, concentrations returned to pretreatment levels in the four carpets that had harbored the lowest antigen levels before spraying (less than 1,450 micrograms per gram of dust). But antigen levels remained at less than half the pretreatment levels in the other three carpets, which initially held 41,000 to 80,000 micrograms per gram of dust.

The researchers conclude that the pale-tea-colored sprays "could be of clinical benefit" for allergy suffereres once their cat has departed, or when residents prepare for allergic guests.
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Title Annotation:treating carpets and furniture with tannic acid to control allergy
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 18, 1990
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