Allergic To Cat Dander? We Have News For You!
As an asthma educator, I have people ask me if they can have a cat if they have asthma. Well, it's not up to me to tell people what to do. Sometimes parents want me to tell them "no" in front of their kids so they don't have to get a pet!
Not everyone with asthma is allergic to cat dander
Everyone with asthma is different. Some have allergies that trigger asthma attacks and some lucky people don't have ANY allergies. I'm not sure what that would even be like!
My family of 5 all have allergies and my 3 kids endured allergy shots for 5 years. We buy allergy pills, allergy nose spray, and boxes of tissues at the warehouse store (seriously - we buy in bulk!).
We're in good company. American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) says the majority of people with asthma also have allergies.1
- 60-80% of kids with asthma also have allergies
- 65-75% of adults with asthma have allergies1
Cat dander allergies are different
However, cat dander is smaller and "stickier" than dog dander. So, people may have more sneezing, runny noses, and more itchy and watery eyes around cats.
Researchers are trying a new approach to battle cat dander allergies. Some people are afraid to get allergy shots (I get it - some people hate needles). Others can't afford allergy shots.
The new research is aimed at the source - cats!2 If you are a cat lady, you know how cats carefully groom themselves. And that's where the problem comes in. There is a protein in their saliva and sebaceous glands that people are allergic to, called Fel d1. Cats transfer it to their fur when they lick themselves (so if you pet your cat after that, you are getting a nose full of the allergy-producing protein). It also dries out on their fur and can become airborne and cause allergies when you breathe it in.2
Fel d1 also comes out in the cat's urine, which you can be exposed to when you empty the litter box.2
A trial is underway to see if giving the cat an antibody in their cat food could neutralize the Fel d1. In the study, 105 cats were fed a special cat food with the antibody in the food. Their Fel d1 protein dropped by 47%!2
How does this affect people with a cat dander allergy?
So, what does this mean for people? Does it really reduce allergy symptoms? Well, the study didn't have a large sample size (only 11 people), but the results were that those people had fewer allergy symptoms (scratchy and itchy eyes, and nasal problems). And the study was paid for by a cat food company... so keep that in mind. The cat food isn't available yet as more research is needed.
Why not give the antibody to people instead of cats? Or instead of allergy shots? Because humans will break the antibody down in their digestive system. So, we are back to the source - cats.
This may be more helpful to those who are mildly allergic to cat dander. And even though the Fel d1 is cut in half, it still may not help some people. There are those who can't tolerate ANY cat dander.
But, cat people with allergies and asthma - there may be hope out there one day!
Have you ever experienced an itchy chin prior to or during asthma attacks?