The Hilltop Allergy Letter
VOLUME 14 NUMBER 4
SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2015
We welcome all new and established patients to our newsletter. This is formulated four times a year to inform patients and the medical community with regard to new developments in asthma, allergies, and clinical immunology. Please feel free to take this home with you and share it with family and friends.
THE HYPOALLERGENIC PET – AN ONGOING SEARCH
Many patients have allergies to cats and dogs. It is a common question as to whether or not there is such a thing as a “hypoallergenic” cat.
Recently, a patient brought this to my attention, and I reviewed the possibility, that there are now cats and possibly dogs that produce less protein than other cats or dogs.
A patient who is allergic to a cat is allergic to protein found in the cat or dog’s urine, saliva or sweat. A bald pet can still cause significant allergy symptoms. Certain breeds of cats are thought to have decreased amounts of these allergy-producing proteins. Nonetheless, this does not mean that the cat will not cause allergies. Certain patients, for instance, are very sensitive to cat proteins, even from cats that do not produce a lot of allergenic protein. Furthermore, in order to conclusively find out whether or not a cat is making large amounts of protein or not, one would have to conduct expensive and very elaborate testing on the cat itself. To my knowledge, this testing is not done, although it may be done in some research settings.
Therefore, although certain breeds of cat are now widely marketed as being “hypoallergenic”, it has not been shown conclusively that these pets actually produce small amounts of protein. Clinical experience with cat breeders of Siberian cats has revealed that most people who handle these cats do not have allergy symptoms even if they have a history of allergies to other cats. Therefore, our overall recommendation still stands that patients with allergies to cats or dogs would be wise not to have these pets in their homes. The majority of our patients will keep their pets in their homes even if they are allergic to them and with appropriate treatment will have good control of their allergies despite having these animals in the home. If you have further questions regarding this topic, please do not hesitate to contact one of our staff.
MAXIMIZING INDOOR AIR QUALITY
A frequent question among patients with allergies and asthma is maximizing indoor air quality. There are a few rules of thumb that I frequently recommend to patients. I will list some of them here: Keep your indoor air humidity between 30-40% if at all possible. This can be very difficult to do in the wintertime with homes having forced-air heat. Hot water heat or floor-based heating systems are ideal as forced-air heat can often be compared to living in a dryer in the wintertime. Humidity also travels downward, so in patients who more than one level on their home, it is recommended that humidifiers be placed on the upper levels of the home so that the humidity from the humidifiers can track downward. Also, the basement areas tend to be the most humid, so running dehumidifiers in basement areas can be helpful. It should be noted that keeping airborne humidity between 30-40% in the summertime can also be difficult as our air can be quite humid for significant parts of the summer.
Routine maintenance of furnace filters is essential. I recommend patients use filters recommended by the furnace manufacturer or air-conditioner manufacturer. This information is often readily available free-of-charge on the internet if you search for your specific brand and model of furnace or air conditioning unit. There are filters that are listed as hypoallergenic or that are fine-particle filters, but a filter that is extremely dense may harm the furnace or air-conditioning unit as it will be difficult to draw air through that filter. Also, a filter that is not dense enough may allow particles through the furnace and your air ducts as well as the air-conditioning unit and thereby decreasing the active life of those units.
Air purifiers in the home are often asked about. I do not recommend for or against them. Certainly, some patients have felt benefit with them, but there is no consistent scientific evidence stating that these items are of benefit for patients with allergies or asthma. I do leave it up to patients as an option for them should they choose to do that.
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Allergy and Asthma Specialists of Cadillac