As you have seen in the other sections, Indoor air pollution is arguably one of the most overlooked threats to human health, particularly affecting young children and adults who spend an estimated 90% of their time indoor.
"A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself." – Josh Billings. Pets have become a part of our society and a large group of people have started to adopt them as a part of their family because of the love they express.
In the kind of homes we built today and our energy efficient mindset leads to decreased ventilation and increased proliferation of disease causing substances.
Thus unfortunately many pet lovers find themselves facing the daily discomfort of persistent allergy symptoms. According to reputed Doctors 10 to 15% pet lovers or their family members in India have problems with pet allergens.
The most sensitive individuals may suffer greatly from the slightest exposure to animal dander, and reactions to cat dander can be particularly explosive. But homes aren’t the only high-dander environments.
Sensitive individuals may display reactions at work and other public places due to the presence of pet dander. Reactions may occur at home, in hotel rooms and friends’ homes, even if a pet is not present at the time. Where pets are in residence, dander will concentrate in local reservoirs such as curtains, upholstery, rugs, clothing, bedding and air ducts, which are constant sources of allergen, even when the pets and their families have moved on to a new home.
Interestingly, dander may be inadvertently transported by pet owners to animal-free locations. In these instances, exposure is often indirect (allergen in ventilation systems, or dander attached to people).
Continuous exposure may lead to the mysterious onset of allergy symptoms without an obvious cause. And worse, untreated animal dander allergy may silently trigger difficult-to-manage asthma, allergic sinusitis etc.
Who’s at risk?
Heredity plays a key role, as pet allergy often runs in families. If either parent suffers from pet allergies, the chance of a child developing the condition significantly increases. If both parents are allergic, the risk of a child developing an allergy can occur in up to 80% of their offspring.
What does "dander" mean?
Most people believe airborne pet fur/hair causes allergy symptoms, which is not actually the case. Airborne saliva and urine-derived proteins are a major source of pet allergen.
Sebaceous glands in the skin also produce these protein allergens. Male cats and dogs have greater amounts of secretion and are often more allergenic than females or neutered males.
Desquamated epithelium (shed upper layer of skin) and saliva are rich in water-soluble protein, which causes allergic reactions. Pet hair alone has little water-soluble protein, with the exception of deposited saliva, which occurs when a pet licks its fur. While the fur/hair may be coated with allergen proteins deposited from dried saliva, the airborne microscopic flakes of animal dander from the skin remain the major source of pet allergen.
How dander gets to you?
Pet dander can cause allergy symptoms through indirect contact (airborne allergen inhaled into the nose and lungs) or by transfer of the dander directly to nasal and/or ocular mucosa by direct contact with pet allergen from contaminated hands or clothing.
Pet allergens can remain in a home for up to six months or more after a pet has been removed.
Lower levels of animal dander allergen can even persist for years because of urine contamination (soaked into carpets, furniture, and floors), or dander in hidden areas (air ducts, basements, in and around furniture, closets and appliances).
Low levels of allergen may even be present as a result of a pet owned by a previous occupant of a dwelling, or furniture. Further, pet allergen may travel into your home or office on pet owners’ clothes or hair.
Common heating or air conditioning systems in apartment buildings may allow pet allergens present in one apartment to contaminate a nearby pet-free apartment via air ducts. Pet-dander-contaminated classrooms, offices, and mass transit are common sources of indirect exposure.
Symptoms of pet allergy
Some pet owners will have sudden and dramatic symptoms when exposed to cats or dogs, while others suffer from persistent low-grade symptoms that only clear up after days or weeks away from their homes.
Highly sensitive individuals may have trouble controlling symptoms, even with comprehensive medical treatment. Chronic exposure to pet dander among allergy sufferers can lead to worsening of sinusitis, asthma, nasal allergy, eye allergy, sleep apnea and snoring.
Exposure to cat or dog dander may worsen other allergic reactions, even seasonal allergy. For example, exposure to a cat or dog during the winter may worsen spring season allergy symptoms, as the immune system may be “primed” or activated due to year-round allergen exposure. Some individuals originally allergic to pets, may, over time, become “immune” or desensitized to dander from their own pets. However, in others, allergic reactions to one’s pet can worsen over time.
For more information on pet allergens and asthma triggers, visit http://www.epa.gov/asthma/pets.html
"Indoor air can be 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air outside your house"- EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). Outdoor air has only Category 1 of air pollutants. But Indoor air has all the 3 Categories of air pollutants.