The Simple Life is Not so Simple

Allergy relief is about eliminating the allergens; simple, right?  There are measures to reduce your exposure. Your efforts must be consistent and continuous. Half measures will give you half-ass results.  

Personally, I'm exhausted.

The rule of environmental control is everything in it must be able to be wiped or washed. You'd be surprised how mush in your home is not, I was.  The first hurdle was my doctors telling me that I would need to keep the cats out of my bedroom, and I did try when Maus and Jake were alive.  It didn’t work well.  Jake cried all night for weeks and if you are aware of how LOUD Jake was, ask Teri of the blog "Coco, the Couture Cat."  I am sure Jake would have been a record breaker for loudest meow.  Anyway, I relented to let them back in, and for total disclosure, I miss not sleeping with them.  Since I couldn't keep them out, I had to take additional measures to reduce my exposure to their dander.  This is what I have to do:
  • I change my bed linens every other day.
  • I change my pillow cases every day (I have three pillows).
  • I keep disposable face cloths on me to wipe my face and hands after I handled my cats (so as not to put my hands in my eyes or nose).
  • I use a fresh washcloth and towel every day.
  • All of my clothing and bedding has to be washable in hot water to at least 120 degrees. I avoid most colored clothing and linens because of this.  I no longer buy dry cleaned clothes.
A year ago I moved to my mother’s home to care for her.  Unfortunately, she has wall-to-wall carpeting and heavy drapes.  In the bedroom I occupy, I had to remove all of the curtains and valances and have the carpet cleaned at least once a month. I open windows and wear a mask when I vacuum and clean.  My only compromise is a fan, which I'm not supposed to use because it puts dust in the air.

I’m house shopping, and the home I buy will be sans carpet and drapes (only washable sheers). I will also have to invest in an air cleaning system, at the least in my bedroom. All of my d├ęcor, whether furniture, art, everything has to keep to the washable/wipe rule. No fake flowers or unnecessary clutter.

Some of this regiment is not solely because of the cats.  I got rid of my chotskies because the cats climbed everywhere and pushed them off of shelves. I have dust mite allergies.  The carpet and drapes hold dust, so it had to go too.  How I wash my clothing would be the case even if the cats were not here.  However, a lack of hair does not mean their dander isn’t everywhere (and it is).  Little of the dust in your home is dirt from the outdoors.  Most of the dust is dead skin and mite poop (seriously).  Gives you a whole new perspective on what is clean, doesn’t it?

Welcome to my life.  By the way, this does not include what I have to do to the cats and how I must maintain them to live with me. Not so simple anymore.

Next post – To Be Naked and Hungry

Am I Allergic to my Pet?

Don’t guess whether you are allergic.  Some people who believe they are allergic to cats with fur will miraculously not have symptoms around hairless cats.  You are probably not allergic to cats.  Just as I stated in my “5 Myths about Sphynx Cats” post, if you were allergic, it would be to the entire cat, not just the hair.  Same with dogs.  A runny nose and itchy eyes may be dust mites or the shampoo used to bathe your pet.  Don’t guess, get a panel test.

There are three types of allergies. There is environmental, medical, and food.  There isn’t a way to test for specific food allergies (honest).  There is a test for peanut sensitivity, but most food is too complex to do a serum test.  You will know you have one by your body reactions; vomiting, hives, extreme gastric pain, anaphylaxis. Medication allergies can be just as violent. However, you can test for these sensitivities such as penicillin and Wellbutrin drugs.  Most panel tests are chemical and environmental allergens; the latter includes cats and dogs (sorry, no test for other mammals and amphibians, but yes for arachnids and insects).  If you suspect you have an allergy to ANYTHING, it is important that you seek a professional and know for sure.

The Panel test is relatively painless.  A serum containing allergen is on needles.  The needles are tiny, just long enough to infiltrate the first couple of layer of the Dermis.  After 20 minutes the reaction at the site of penetration is measured.  The bigger the reaction, greater the sensitivity.

Your doctor will give you some choices after your test.  Food and Medication allergies are straightforward, avoid them altogether.  You will probably be prescribed ann epinephrine injection pen if your allergy is severe.  Epinephrine slows the histamine overload in most cases, but you will still need to seek emergency care if you have an anaphylaxis episode.

For environmental allergies, you can first reduce your exposure.  There are medications to reduce your symptoms, and you can work to reduce or eliminate your sensitivity through injections.  Allergy shots take anywhere from 3-5 years, and the effect is not always permanent.  I am currently taking allergy shots since moving to my mother’s home.  She has wall-to-wall carpeting and curtains (I’ll explain in the next post why that is a problem), and my symptoms skyrocketed.  I had a shot every week for eight months before I reach what is called “maintenance.” I now receive one shot a month.  If at anytime I have a bad reaction to my shot the allergist can reduce my dose, and I would have to work my way back to a full dose by coming in once a week just as before. Though my symptoms have reduced, I still react if my exposure is high.  Along with the shots, I had to change my environment.

Next post – The Simple Life is not so Simple

Bless the Child - Words for Wednesday

I am fortunate to be in touch with the catteries from where I adopted Lexi Liu.  I get valuable breed information as well as see the other beautiful cats in their care.  Two catteries, one in South Africa where Lexi was born and one in Virginia where I adopted Lexi will at time trade breeding cats.  It is essential to keeping the gene pool varied and healthy (that's how Lexi Liu came to the U.S.).  Recently the cattery in Virgina welcomes Disal Churchill from South Africa.  It turns out he is one of Lexi's sons.  He is a handsome boy, round-faced and stout like his mom.  Welcome to America Mr. Churchill!

Living with Allergies when Pets are Involved

I am allergic to my cats. Doesn’t that beat all?  My allergy to the cats has not been a lifelong condition.  Like most allergies, it developed over time.  I’m also allergic to dogs, dust mites, some grasses, and trees.  The irony in all of this is not only am I a cat owner, but I also ran an immunology clinic when I was in the Army (after a knee injury put a stop to para-jumping out of helicopters). 

I can remember at some point while living with cats and visiting my sister’s home (she has dogs) having a runny nose, watery eyes and lots of phlegm, but I was a smoker too and just thought it was the cigarettes until I stopped smoking and the symptoms continued. I was tested before (allergy techs practice on each other) and only showed an allergy to trees.  However, the symptoms continued and by this time I already had Jake and Maus and had just started caring for Moshe Moshi.  Just to rule it out I have a full panel skin test.  I was floored and crushed, and I had to decide what to do.

You only have two choices when it comes to being allergic to your pets; remove the allergen or manage your exposure.  Neither was going to be easy.  I let my heart speak for me and decided to keep the cats, although I wasn’t sure how to manage it.

This week, I going to blog about how I manage my allergies to my cats.  Some practices have to do with my environment; some are to do with the cats. Managing one over the other is not easy. If you are facing the same decision, you need to keep in mind that your regiment is probably going to be life long, as long as your allergen is present. Yes, I chose to keep my cats, but there is no shame if you decide your quality or your pet’s quality of life is severely affected by the tasks needed to coexist. Giving your pets up may be the most humane choice.  I'm happy to let my example help you decide.

Next Post - I am Allergic to my Pet?
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