Pet Allergies nearly killed me and put me on disability

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. 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. 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. 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 form 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. 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. 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.

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Comments

View Comments (7)
  • cbo1000
    1 month ago

    Thank you for sharing this story. My 11 year old son has a severe cat allergy and has the same breathing problems you described. He’s been to the emergency room and had many breathing treatments, vomiting, wheezing, etc. While we don’t have cats at our home, he’s been exposed at friend’s houses, parties, etc. and zyrtec has done absolutely nothing for him. I had been second-guessing my decision to start him on immunotherapy shots because of the time commitment, but after reading your story I know I am making the right decision!

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi cbo1000 and thanks for your post in response to sheaoneil977’s story from last year. Besides what both Sam and Lauren have said, it always catches my attention when people speak of their (animal) allergies. Frequently, although it’s not always considered, the allergy may be connected to animal dander rather than the animal species. Often times, someone who has been told they are allergic to dogs or cats, only exhibit the allergy to certain dogs (or cats) and not all. And then they find rabbits or horses my be triggers too. I thought I would mention this to broaden our thinking somewhat. It’s not meant to tell you (cbo1000 or Sam), that your experience is anything other than what you’ve said it is. Wishing you all well, Leon (site moderator)

  • SamuelTaylor moderator
    1 month ago

    Hi cbo1000,

    I resonate with your son very much. I had anaphylaxis with both cats and dogs at his age. With the impact on my asthma, it landed me in the hospital on multiple occasions with similar symptoms. I tried zyrtec as well, although like your son, it had no effect on my allergies. My parents were contemplating immunotherapy shots as well, but decided against it because of the same reason.

    Today, I have a dog and play with dogs constantly with no issues, ever. My allergies have almost entirely dissipated on their own. I sometimes will have a reaction to a cat, but nowhere near to the severity when I was younger. Sometimes people grow out of their allergies and I sincerely hope that that is the case with your son as well.

    I’m glad that this story helped you feel secure in your decision. I wanted to share my experience so that you and your son know that others have been where you are and a lot changes as you grow up going through physiological changes. I wish your son the best and appreciate you sharing your experience with us. Let us know how he’s doing in the future.

    -Samuel, Asthma.net Team

  • lauren.tucker moderator
    1 month ago

    Best of luck to your son @cbo1000 Keep us posted on your son. Best, Lauren (Asthma.net Team)

  • sheaoneil977 author
    4 months ago

    Hi Steffie_D,

    I am sad to hear about your struggles with having to be around second-hand dander and it causing allergic asthma attacks and anaphlaxis-like symptoms as well. I too wish there was more awareness out there abd have difficulty in similar situations. I had to stop the Nucala injections I was taking– they lower eosinophils in the blood which are often responsible for allergic inflammation– I had to stop them because they are very expensive and even with medicare I get with disability, the out of pocket was so high I only could afford it with sone charity funding and they ran out. Now I am still stuck on 20 mg prednisone and unable to lower without my breathing and skin and vasculitis becoming too bad. I still keep my home a sanctuary and no one comes in my home if they own a cat or dog. I still do not go into others homes with cats or dogs. I hired a guardian ad litem who interviewed my sons allergist and wrote his recommendation not to have him be forced to do timeshares in homes with cats or dogs present. So far the best advice I can get is talking to your doctor and explaining what is happening and the severity of triggers. Then telling them which meds you are comfortabke eith and which ones you are not and what avoidance techniques work and what do not. It can help getting notes at that point. My immunologist wrote a note for me explaining my severe condition and that it can be triggered by indirect animal dander such as that carried on clothing, bags, inanimate objects, and that part of my treatment plan is strict avoidance of such allergens. Now my brother and his wife who own cats wears freshly laundered clothing and supposedly do not pet the cats before attending family events. They are aware of my dander allergies. I casually do not stand or sit too close to them. I also bring a mask with me because if I get uncomfortable when I am out I can put it on– they have some cute ones online on amazon– one brand is cambridge masks, another is vogmasks, n95 or n99, and they filter tiny irritating particles including dander. If the person themself is aware they can help a little by freshly laundered clothing and keeping their bags and things out of your workspace. If the company is aware then maybe they can avoid scheduling you with them or having you work too closely together. If you get a doctors note first, then next go to HR and try to think of a reasonable accomodation they can do for you that could help. But it is hard… And scary because people can be very unaware and sonetimes rude in their response and understanding. But others can really be helpful and empathetic. I now go to an asthma and allergy online support community on aafa.org and regularly talk with people who have allergies and asthma in their everyday lives and it has really helped me not feel so aline in this snd pick up helpful tips https://community.aafa.org . Some of them have severe dander allergies, sone of them have pets but are understanding and empathetic to what we are going through. I am really glad you shared your story here and I totally agree with you, that the more awareness is out there, the easier it will get for us. These reactions are real, they are happening, asthma and allergic diseases are rising in the populations. Studies are coming out, such as one on kids with asthma having more symptoms and worse symptoms and asthma prognosis when in classrooms with more cat owners ( https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/11254526/ )… It was really hard fir me to get disability and I think my heart attack and subsequent poor funxtion is what gave me the final result I needed– it took 2 years and 2 denials and a lawyers and a hearing to qualify. I am so glad though bevause I really want to get off prednisone and be able to di all my ADLs and disability was my only chance exactly because of the issues you bring up. If I do re-enter the workforce ever– I will look into becoming a virtual school teacher. I wish you tbe best of luck and feel free to message me anytime or pop in on the aafa community!

    Sincerely,
    Shea

  • easybreather
    1 year ago

    Omg
    It’s so good to find someone that suffers as badly as me from allergies
    No one understands and it’s a fight to survive

  • Richard Faust
    1 year ago

    Hi easybreather. It is helpful to find others who can understand and that you can relate to. Know that you are always welcome here anytime you need information or a little extra support. Best, Richard (Asthma.net Team)

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