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DIAGNOSIS If you only have reactions when your pet is indoors, there’s a good chance your dog or cat is the culprit. However, the only way to know for sure is to be tested by an allergist. The three most common testing methods include skin, patch, and blood tests.

what can you do if you’re

allergic

Percutaneous or skin testing is when the suspecting allergens are placed on the patient’s back and the skin is lightly scratched. After 15 minutes, the skin is checked for a local reaction. The severity of the allergy is determined by the size of the reaction.

to the

family pet?

In patch testing, potential allergens are placed on the surface of the skin and covered with a bandage. In 48 hours, the bandage is removed and the skin is checked for swelling or rash.

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IF YOU HAVE P E T S , it’s important to keep them cool

and comfortable in these hot summer months. This often means keeping or bringing them inside more frequently. If you suffer from allergies, these symptoms are all too familiar: the runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. But how can you know if your symptoms are related to pet allergies and not some other cause?

Here’s an interesting fact: people with pet allergies aren’t actually allergic to dander (pet hair). They’re actually allergic to a certain protein in their pet’s saliva on the dander. Cats, for example, groom themselves with their tongues, creating lots of loose dander covered in saliva. It’s light and sticky, so the dander clings to clothes and shoes, spreading from place to place and person to person.

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People with particular skin conditions or who are taking particular types of medications cannot undergo skin or patch testing. For these patients, we utilize blood tests, also called RAST (radioallergosorbent test). A blood sample is drawn and sent to the lab, where the suspected allergen is added to the sample. Then, the sample is tested to measure how many antibodies the blood makes to fight that specific allergen.

TREATMENT

Avoidance is the best way to treat pet allergies. But no one wants to banish their pet from coming inside their home. Medicines such as over-the-counter antihistamines can alleviate symptoms, but some can leave you feeling drowsy — so be sure to read and follow directions and use with caution until you know how your body will react. Cleaning the air inside your house with a HEPA filter can help to remove the dander from the environment. Allergy shots (also called immunotherapy) are very effective and can, over time, reset your immune response to the protein in dander — lessening or even curing your allergies altogether. w L K N e x p e rt

J. Gray Norris, MD, is a board-certified asthma and allergy specialist with Carolina Asthma & Allergy Center. For more information or to schedule an appointment at one of their locations, you may call them at 704.372.7900 or visit www.carolinaasthma.com. WRITER J. GRAY NORRIS, MD

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