Allergy sufferers do have a hard time of it. It begins when Spring comes along and renders the unfortunate hay fever collective blind and snivelling, followed by an on-off-on again Summer, which renders anyone unfortunate enough to be allergic to grass or sunshine nocturnal. People with certain food allergies are only one careless chef away from a trip to the hospital, whilst those with fur allergies can be affected by an animal that has a natural desire to climb, shake, run, chase and in many cases, hug. Good luck avoiding that dog when he wants to play.
So let us spare a thought for those who get the dog of their dreams, only then to discover they have an allergy to their new best friend. John F. Kennedy, despite having severe allergic reactions to his German Shepherds, was a devoted dog owner.
Rebecca Lovegrove too, is allergic to dogs, but that hasn’t stopped her being an animal behaviourist and dog owner. Here she shares some of the tips and secrets she has used to cope with an allergy to her best friend.
“I think I may have just broken the record for sneezing. Twenty four sneezes in the space of four minutes surely must warrant a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Mind you I could also try and win the award for possessing the reddest and itchiest eyes in the world. I can’t even count the number of times I have had to don a pair of dark glasses (in the middle of winter I might add) before leaving the house so I don’t scare people with my swollen, bloodshot eyes.
All this just because I gave my dog, a chocolate Labrador, a big hug. If he even licks me on the skin I will erupt in a raised, itchy, red rash.
It’s not just dogs, but pretty much any animal with hair that will set me off. I am now used to the horrified responses and sometimes hysterical laughter from people who have just discovered that I am about to become a pet behaviourist.
It is estimated that between ten and fifteen percent of the UK population who own companion animals are actually allergic to them. Whilst some people may not realise until they have bought their pet that they have an allergy, I know many people, including myself who knew full well before deciding to provide a home for their pet what they were letting themselves in for. The fact that so many people are willing to live with such discomfort and in some cases with a real risk to their health just highlights the positive aspects that owning a dog can bring.
People often assume it is the animal hair itself which causes these extreme reactions in those people unlucky enough to have an allergy. It is actually not the hair itself that causes the problem, but dander.
Dander is basically dead hair and skin cells which are constantly shed from an animal. It is extremely lightweight and can stay airborne for hours. These cells contain proteins which have been secreted by oily glands and it is these proteins which are known as allergens that react with some people’s immune system to cause the allergic response.
There are precautions that can be taken which may not cure, but can certainly help control the intensity of such allergic responses and which can make living with our hairy tormentors a little more bearable.
Have you overcome pet allergies? We'd love to hear your own stories!