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Get Smart about Pet Allergies

Let’s start with some tough truths. “Non-allergic” or hypo-allergenic dogs do not exist (sorry, Bo Obama). You can’t eliminate dog’s allergens with special shampoos, topical sprays or oral agents. And there’s little evidence steam-cleaning carpets and upholstery helps control pet allergies.

That’s the myth-busting word from the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). But all is not lost. ACAAI offers a few research-based suggestions for reducing pet allergen levels in the home.

Replace carpeting with hardwood, stone or tile. Carpeted floors act like big sponges that hold a hodgepodge of dust and allergens.

Limit or remove fabric-upholstered furniture and curtains. You want smooth surfaces from which you can wipe away allergens.

Wash bedding and curtains in one of three ways—in water at least 140°F with one rinse; at any temperature with two rinses; or in a steam-washing machine.

Use tightly woven protective coverings (with openings less than 4 microns) on mattresses, box springs and pillows.

Don’t groom pets in your home.

But before you do anything, be sure to accurately diagnose the problem. “I can’t tell you how many times I see patients who assume they’re allergic to a cat or dog and they get rid of it. Then we do the allergy testing and discover it wasn’t the animal,” says Dr. James L. Sublett, a practicing allergist in Louisville. “It’s unfortunate when you see that happen.”

Find a board-certified allergist at www.allergyandasthmarelief.org.

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