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People with allergies and dogs

You may want a dog but are concerned about any allergies you or someone in your family may have. Perhaps you already have a dog and have found your allergy is a problem. The good news is that people with allergies and dogs can live together!

Allergies to dogs are caused by a reaction to certain proteins found in oils secreted from a dog's skin and in their saliva - it is not hair itself that causes allergies. When your dog sheds hair, or its skin flakes off, these proteins are carried into the immediate environment where they may cause an allergic reaction.

Don't rely on immunity

Some people report developing an immunity to their dog i.e. they ' grow out' of the allergy. While this is certainly true for some, don't depend on it if you're getting a new dog. It is possible that an allergic reaction will get worse with more exposure.

Contrary to what you may have heard, there are no truly "hypoallergenic" dogs. It has been suggested that the hair of some breeds - such as poodles - helps prevent allergens getting into the environment, but many people report just as strong a reaction to these dogs. A small dog may provoke less allergic reaction than a larger one simply because he has less skin and hair to shed.

Once you have a dog, fastidiousness is the key to dealing with allergies. Wash your hands after you handle him, never touch your face or eyes after you've touched your dog. Wipe down smooth surfaces in the home regularly and vacuum frequently. Use air sterilisers and vacuum cleaners with filters. Frequently wash any bedding that your dog sleeps on.

Restrict access

You may want to restrict your dog's access to certain areas of the house and should certainly keep him away from the bed and bedroom of anyone who is allergic to dogs.

When selecting which rooms to allow your dog access to, bear in mind that hardwood floors retain less hair and skin scales and are easier to clean than carpet. If you have only a few rooms in your house with carpet, try to keep your dog out of them. Upholstered furniture will also retain a lot of dandruff, so try to keep your dog off them and out of the rooms that contain them.

The more you brush your dog, the more helpful it will be in reducing allergic reactions because it helps prevent loose hair from getting into the air. At least once a week is good, more often is better still.

Be particularly careful to groom in the springtime when your dog will be shedding its winter coat. Whenever possible, grooming should be carried out by someone who isn't allergic to dogs and ideally outdoors.

Talk to your doctor about what anti-allergic drugs you can take to make life easier and other possible ways to manage the problem.

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