Cat allergy is the most common form of widespread pet dander allergy. Its symptoms are watery eyes, sneezing and allergic skin reactions, but severe asthma attacks can also occur. The most important step in therapy is immediate relief for the patient. This consists of avoiding any contact with allergens, for example cats with a cat allergy.
What is a cat allergy?
Since the allergens are inhaled through the air, the first signs of a cat allergy usually appear in the respiratory tract.
Cat hair allergy and other animal hair allergies together form the third most common form of allergy in Germany, after pollen and house dust mite allergies. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Cat Allergy.
About ten percent of the population is affected. Anyone who suffers from a cat allergy reacts to the animal proteins that are in the hair of the animals. Allergens can also be found in the skin, saliva, sweat or faeces, and in cats also in the vomited hairballs.
It is important to know that animal hair itself does not trigger allergies, only the proteins that settle in it. In principle, all saliva-producing animals can cause an allergy, which is why those affected should not keep pets and avoid contact with wild animals. The exact reason for the frequency of cat allergies has not yet been found, but it is assumed that cats have a comparatively strong urge to clean.
The cause of the cat allergy is a dysregulated immune system. As with all allergies, it initiates the so-called excessive defense reactions when the body comes into contact with animal hair or other substances.
The substances that trigger this reaction are called allergens. The cat allergy is an immediate allergy that is initiated by immunoglobulin E and is directly related to contact with allergens. The immune system forms antibodies against the immunoglobulins, which bind to the mast cells and encourage the body to release inflammatory messengers. These messenger substances, including histamine, trigger acute inflammatory reactions.
The question of the heritability of the allergy tendency has not yet been clarified. What is certain is that some sufferers of cat allergy suffer from a genetically anchored tendency to hypersensitivity reactions of this type of allergy.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Symptoms of a cat allergy can appear in the respiratory tract, eyes and skin. Since the allergens are inhaled through the air, the first signs of a cat allergy usually appear in the respiratory tract. Here, milder symptoms are often confused with a cold.
The symptoms range from a slight scratchy throat to a constant urge to cough to severe coughing fits. In addition, the throat and pharynx can become inflamed. A stuffy or runny nose and frequent sneezing can also be symptoms of a cat allergy. In extreme cases, asthma attacks and shortness of breath can occur.
The conjunctiva of the eyes is also irritated by the allergens. The result is watery, itchy or burning eyes. The eyes are often red or swollen. The skin of those affected can also react to the cat allergens. In this case, slight reddening and swelling up to severely itching skin rashes with large pustules form.
The symptoms often appear on the hands and arms, i.e. the areas that have come into contact with the cat. The symptoms appear differently in each person. They depend on how severe the allergy is. The length and intensity of contact with the cat also play a role.
Diagnosis & History
A cat allergy can be present from childhood, but it can also only be noticed later in life. Without treatment, cat dander allergies can progress to life-threatening asthma attacks.
This makes diagnosis and subsequent treatment problematic, because many affected people do not see their own pets as the cause or do not want to give them away. This makes it all the more important for the diagnosis of animal dander allergy to closely monitor the symptoms and when they occur. The treating allergy doctor needs to know when and where the allergic reactions are noticed, so those affected should keep an allergy diary.
These allergens can only be taken into account in a skin prick test if there is sufficient suspicion of a cat allergy. In order to confirm the result of the skin test, a detailed blood test for antibodies is carried out before the cat allergy is treated.
As a rule, an allergy to cats does not lead to any particular complications or discomfort as long as contact with cats is avoided. This can possibly limit the everyday life of the person concerned. In the worst case, the cat allergy can lead to asthma attacks or a strong urge to sneeze when they come into contact with cats.
Those affected then continue to suffer from watery eyes and shortness of breath. In addition, the skin can turn red and there is a strong cough. In the further course, the cat allergy can also lead to various inflammations of the eye. In most cases, the cat allergy is diagnosed by the patient himself. In many cases, this allergy cannot be treated causally, so that the affected person must avoid any contact with cats.
There are no further complications or symptoms and the patient’s life expectancy is not reduced by this allergy. In some cases, the symptoms can be limited with the help of spray and other allergy medication. A so-called desensitization can also be carried out if contact with cats is desired or cannot be avoided.
When should you go to the doctor?
If the person concerned experiences sudden health problems in the presence of a cat, a doctor should be consulted. To clarify the cause, tests are needed to prove an allergic reaction. If you have a runny nose, sneezing or sneezing attacks, it is advisable to consult a doctor. A blocked nose, reddening of the eyes, skin changes, an itchy face or a cough are all indications of a cat allergy.
If you have a hoarse voice, breathing problems or difficulty breathing, you need help. The mucous membranes swell and block the trachea. In severe cases, the patient is at risk of anaphylactic shock. If acute shortness of breath occurs or if you lose consciousness, an emergency doctor must be called. Until his arrival, first aid measures must be initiated and breathing must be ensured. For some of those affected, contact with people who keep cats in private households is sufficient.
Even the first contact with these people or physical proximity can trigger the symptoms. A doctor must be consulted in good time so that a life-threatening situation does not arise. If open wounds appear due to the itching, sterile wound care should be initiated. If this cannot be guaranteed, a doctor’s visit is necessary, as otherwise pathogens can penetrate the organism.
Treatment & Therapy
The most important therapy for animal dander and cat allergies is to avoid contact with the allergen. For people with cat allergies, this usually means that they cannot keep cats and have to part with their pets.
As a further step after the separation, the thorough cleaning of all furniture and clothing must be carried out. This difficult step is the only insurance against the severe, life-threatening course of the allergy. If allergy sufferers only rarely encounter the triggering animals or if the allergy is very weak, the doctor prescribes drug therapy against the symptoms of the cat allergy. Antihistamines, adrenaline sprays and glucocorticoids relieve acute allergy symptoms, which is why they are particularly recommended before visiting cat owners.
If skin irritation occurs, special anti-allergic care products can provide relief. Some patients report successful desensitization to cat dander allergy. However, attempting desensitization is associated with the risk of an increased allergic reaction.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of a cat allergy is unfavorable. Once a cat allergy has been diagnosed, it is usually a lifelong disease with an unchanged diagnosis. The symptoms remain constant over the life span or can even have an increasing character in severe cases. A spontaneous healing is not to be expected with a cat allergy. The previous possibilities of conventional medicine, alternative or natural healing methods have so far only led to a temporary and not a permanent recovery.
The patient experiences freedom from symptoms by taking measures on his own responsibility. This includes avoiding close proximity to cats entirely. Environments where cats have been and contact with people who have been in contact with cats must also be avoided. Even the transfer of cat hair in the immediate vicinity of the affected person can trigger an allergic reaction. If medical treatment is sought, the symptoms can be relieved for a limited period of time. Even with long-term therapy or the regular intake of medication, there is no continuous relief of all symptoms that occur.
If the course of the disease is unfavorable, the affected person experiences an anaphylactic shock. This represents a life-threatening situation and can be fatal without immediate intensive medical care. There is also the possibility that the organism develops a chronic disease such as asthma.
Since the causes of cat allergies have not been sufficiently clarified, the allergy cannot be prevented. With some measures, however, the development of symptoms can be counteracted preventively. These include avoiding contact with the animal, cleaning the home thoroughly, and taking antihistamines before visiting pet owners.
Allergies, like cat allergies, usually last a lifetime. Aftercare aims to ensure that patients can cope with everyday life without any problems and that complications do not arise. However, doctors cannot prevent a recurrence. A cat allergy is usually not cured and is permanent.
The transfer of knowledge regarding the triggers takes place as part of the initial diagnosis. The patient learns that he must avoid contact with cats. Certain pieces of furniture are also susceptible to animal hair and trigger the typical symptoms. They have to be cleaned thoroughly. The person concerned is responsible for these preventive measures.
There are no scheduled follow-up checks in the medical sense. In addition, medication for prevention and acute problems can provide relief. The doctor treating you can prescribe appropriate remedies as part of long-term treatment or in the event of acute symptoms. This temporarily reduces the risks.
The only exception to the persistence of a cat allergy is the approach of hyposensitization. However, this therapy is extremely lengthy and its success is not always satisfactory. If this treatment has been chosen, a final healing can occur. Patients then do not need any follow-up care because they are symptom-free. As is well known, there is no longer any clinical picture.
You can do that yourself
Cat owners who suffer from a cat allergy do not necessarily have to give up their four-legged friends. Depending on the severity of the allergy, it is often enough to pay more attention to hygiene and cleanliness in the household.
Cat hair and other residues should be removed regularly – daily vacuuming and weekly washing of pillowcases and bed linen is a must. Cat owners should also set up a retreat that the pet is not allowed to enter. Ideally, contact with the cat should be reduced to reduce allergic reactions. In the case of pronounced immune reactions, it may still be necessary to take medical measures such as hyposensitization. A proven alternative from naturopathy is intestinal cleansing, in which the defense of the intestinal flora is strengthened. Also a classic detoxcan alleviate the allergy. A widespread procedure is autohemotherapy, which improves the general sensitivity to allergies in the body.
Sometimes a cat allergy is also based on psychosomatic causes. Discussions with the relevant specialists help to determine and eliminate the triggers for the immune reaction. Appropriate measures should always be discussed with a doctor first in order to avoid complications.