Pet Allergies Nearly Killed Me And Put Me On Disability
Last updated: November 2022
When I first met Tom at a bar on a beach, he asked if I had pets. I said yes, I had a dog, but that I was very allergic to cats. He didn't mention he had cats until our 3rd or 4th date. Well, when I found out it seemed like I should not let that be a reason to stop dating someone I liked. So I tried to work with it. Any time I went to his house though, my allergies were very bad: wheezing was the most unbearable (breathing is important).
I was raised to suffer through my allergies, and treat with Benadryl. But, as we continued to date and we lived an hour away from each other, so I was at his house overnights, it made it difficult to cope with my allergies and dating him. I went to my doctor for help. He prescribed me Singulair. It worked like magic at first. It was like I was not even allergic to cats anymore.
My cat allergy worsened
A few months later I moved in with Tom. I did not have any problems until a year and a half later when I became pregnant. I started to develop breathing problems, coughing up a lot of phlegm, needing steroid tapers, and it worked its way to needing to go to the ER to get nebulized breathing treatments a few times, needing inhalers, making it difficult to work, especially while pregnant. The doctor missed, or neglected to tell me about the high eosinophil blood levels, and did not give me referrals to specialists, or help me figure out what was going on in any way.
I was getting my blood taken frequently due to the pregnancy, which was normal in all other regards, but those woman's doctors too did not give me any help or notify me of abnormal labs. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. But my breathing still was not getting better and the doctor thought it might get better after I gave birth. I had told the doctor before I suspected my cat allergies could be playing a role. He did not tell me that Singulair had been linked to a previously rare chronic allergic disease called Churg-Strauss Syndrome. (Editor's Note: The FDA added a black box warning to this drug. Read more about this here.)
Trying to reduce cat dander
I tried every strategy to reduce dander in the home, including making a pet-free room that I slept in. Nothing was effective. After I gave birth, the doctor told me he did not think I should live with the cats. I told this information to Tom. He did not do anything. I finally said, I cannot live like this, I need you to find a home for the cats, I said I hate to give ultimatums, but if you do not find a home for them then I am going to move out. He said he did not like being given ultimatums and "there's the door".
So the baby and I left to my parents house, who only had one dog and not cats (Tom had one dog and 2 cats). I did better there but then Tom brought a bunch of clothes that were in a closet his animals slept in and full of dander to my house. I told him I did not need them and to leave them there. He did not listen and brought them in the small room the baby and I slept in at my parents house. I moved them outside the room to be washed, but the damage was done.
Struggling to breathe
That night I felt worse than ever before and was out in the living room coughing and trying to take one breath after another, struggling so badly. My dad took me to the ER thinking I needed a breathing treatment. I didn't think I was going to make it to the ER. I told him he could go and I would call him when I was done getting the breathing treatment, but the doctors were finding things wrong with my heart, and it turns out I had a heart attack (at age 26). I was taken to another hospital and a doctor there had seen Churg-Strauss Syndrome before, he treated me with high dose steroids and Cytoxan and saved my life.
I learned about the correlation between Singulair and this disease (which has not proved to be causal so not suing yet). Anyways, Tom still would not find a home for his pets even after hearing from these hospital doctors and what happened. I was afraid for my son and I, because Tom started to ignore us, but also wanted to take my infant son sometimes to his mom's house who has 5 cats. I just had no idea what to do with him. He didn't break up with me, but I finally did with him.
Now unable to work, no help from Tom (never had any anyways he had a failing business and no other job and had stolen rom me but also would not leave me and the baby alone), I was scared. When I went to his home with the baby once, I stayed outside by the pool and he was supposed to keep his animals inside but his dog got out and ran by me (he missed me) and rubbed on my arms, and then TOm got him, and I immediately broke out into a skin rash, and I showed Tom. Still, he would not acknowledge the dander allergy.
Any dander exposure was bad
Later when he visited me at my parents house or at a restaurant my breathing would get worse. We both realized it. Turns out even dander carried on other people can cause severe reactions, and my allergies were severe, even though I was being treated with high dose steroids and Cytoxan. I even noticed my parent's dog that I had lived with previously was causing problems (though not as severe as the cat or Tom's dog, possibly due to his breed).
Regardless, I needed to live in a pet-free environment. I had suffered enough, downplayed enough, masked with medications enough, I had a child who I only trusted myself to care for, no job because my former place had let me go after the heart attack, so I applied for unemployment and eventually disability after I realized how far-reaching the allergic asthma symptoms especially were with this disease.
Allergies are serious
All I want to say is please do not do this to your family members. Do not do it to yourself. Do not torture yourself or downplay your allergies or try a million medications to control symptoms because you will not control them all and they will develop into a chronic problem. I now get Nucala injections and am trying to get off the prednisone (I am off Cytoxan).
My son and I live in a pet-free home. I am on disability. We have lizard pets that are nice and clean and no dander or allergies to them. I still am fighting legally to keep my son (who also has cat and dog dander allergies) at my home and not have to do timeshares in his fathers home, for both of our health and to keep dander out of our homes. I cannot go on airplanes due to the dander on them. But flying is a commodity, living in a dander-free home is a necessity of life.
Do not live with animals you are allergic too! I almost died and left my son an orphan. My son is healthy other than his allergies, and I would never ever make him live in a home and develop asthma, skin and other problems because I wanted to love a dog or cat. Hearing stories where people put their pets above their kids or other family members or selves makes me sick to my stomach. Please do not do it.
Has laughter ever triggered your asthma?