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Pet peeves: how to live with your pet through allergy season.

Have pet allergies got your dander up? If the answer is "ahhhh-choo," you can take comfort you are not alone. Animals shed their winter coats, and millions of masters begin to notice increased allergic reactions to their pets during warmer months. But contrary to popular notion, shedding is not due to warmer weather.

"Animals typically shed their winter coats because of increased exposure to light, not because of a rise in the temperature," explains David H. Wright, D.V.M., a leading veterinarian in Memphis, Tennessee. "That's why house pets that stay inside in a year-round 70 [degrees] environment will still shed when their exposure to light increases."

As Fido and Fluffy shed their winter coats, the amount of tiny skin particles, or dander, they slough off also tends to increase. That's why pet allergies become more of a nuisance in the warmer, sunnier months.

It's hard to believe tiny flakes of skin could cause millions of Americans to sneeze, but that's exactly the case. Approximately 34.6 million American households include dogs, and 29.2 million American households have cats, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association's Center for Information Management. Combine that sum with an estimate from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology that more than 14 million Americans suffer from animal allergies, and the conclusions can make your eyes water.

So what's the big deal about a few seasonal sniffles? Plenty. Left unchecked, allergies caused by animal dander can be disastrous for the allergy victim and his or her pet.

According to Kent Roberts, D.V.M., of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, the number of individuals diagnosed as allergic to animal dander is growing each year.

Patients with pet allergies suffer from a variety of complaints, including sneezing, congestion, runny nose and rashes. These can range from mild to severe symptoms, and usually require some form of action to alleviate discomfort. But no one wants to hear that an animal that provides unconditional love could unknowingly be responsible for causing sneezing and wheezing, especially when that news could mean finding a new home for Duke and his dander.

Additionally, allergies can sometimes mean a death sentence for the unsuspecting pet. According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than eight million pets are euthanized each year in animal shelters across America. A considerable number of those animals are put to sleep because a family member was unable to tolerate his or her allergies.

Do these grim statistics add up to a pet-less existence for all of those miserable masters who suffer from an overdose of dander? Not by a long shot. There are specific steps that can be taken to minimize the effects of animal dander on the entire household, and to ensure King can stay in his castle.

One of the most effective methods for combating the symptoms of animal allergies is to purchase a good room air purifier, according to Wright. Air purifier choices are plentiful, and so are the claims of their success. Do some research and compare the purifiers' Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) statistics before making your purchase, advises David Underhill of Hunter Fan Company.

The CADR is recognized by the Federal Trade Commission and the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers as the most accurate comparison of an air purifier's performance. The higher the CADR rating, the better the cleaning ability.

"Everybody benefits from a good air purifier," says Wright. "Not only will it greatly help humans who are allergic to animal dander, it also goes a long way in relieving allergy symptoms of the thousands of pets who are themselves allergic to indoor allergens, such as house dust mites."

When purchasing a room air purifier, consider the size of the room where you and your pet spend most of your time. For rooms of approximately 200 square feet, you'll need an air purifier with a CADR of 120 to effectively clean the air, according to Underhill. Rooms measuring 300 square feet require a CADR of 200. Quality air purifiers will list the CADR on the side of the package. Air purifiers are available with a variety of optional features, like filter replacement reminder lights, automatic shut-off timers and multi-speed motors.

In addition to air purifiers, Wright suggests bathing and grooming pets regularly to reduce excess hair and dander. He also recommends allergy sufferers vacuum and dust their homes frequently. Allergies don't have to come between you and your pet if you take the necessary steps to rid your environment of animal dander.

For more information about air purifiers, visit Hunter Fan Company's Web site at, or call 1-800-4HUNTER.

Steven Martin, Jr. is marketing services manager at Hunter Fan Company in Memphis, Tennessee.
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Author:Martin, Steven, Jr.
Publication:American Fitness
Date:Sep 1, 1998
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