An earlier study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology claims that pet dander is everywhere – in fact it was present in almost 100% of the homes surveyed. And pets only lived in half of the 831 homes checked for the survey.
So how is it possible that pet dander can travel to such an extent? Can it be airborne, or are the neighbours' pets sneaking into your home when you're not there to try out the couches?
"Nothing of the kind," according to lead author of the study Samuel, J. Arbes. "One explanation is that the cat and dog allergens are transported on clothing and another possible explanation is that there used to be a pet in the house."
Right, so this means that whether you take the number 61 bus to work or visit Aunt Mildred on her farm, there's no escaping the shedding of Felix and Fido. The study found pet dander in taxis, cinemas, hospitals and park benches – to name but a few. When people use these facilities, the pet dander accompanies them on their return journey home.
Imagine if other things were also spread in this manner. Like dust, germs or secondhand smoke. Get the picture? Point is there's often no escaping whatever is in your immediate environment. So what on earth can you do? Does this mean you will simply have a blocked nose and runny eyes and a tight chest for the rest of your life?
"Not necessarily", says Arbes. "For people who are allergic, allergen avoidance may be difficult, and it may be that people who are very allergic to dogs and cats may have to rely on medications as opposed to trying to avoid exposure."
But while it is impossible to avoid exposure entirely, getting a string of pets is still not advisable if you, or someone else in the family, react badly to pet dander. That would be a bit like saying that because you cannot avoid air pollution, why not buy the house next to the industrial area on the edges of town? Or stop vacuuming entirely? - (Susan Erasmus/Health24, August 2006)
- Last updated: June 2010
Visit Health24’s Allergy Centre