Dealing with Pet Dander
For most of us, our fur babies are part of the family. Our faithful companions are a source of endless laughs and unconditional love, and we wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. Even though we adore them, pets can be a nuisance, with all the shedding and slobbering and fur clinging to clothing, not to mention the constant vacuuming. But for allergy sufferers, pet dander can be a real nightmare.
If you suffer from pet allergies, you are not alone. According to Prevention magazine, a whopping 15% of the population deals with pet allergies. While any animal with fur can be a source of pet allergies, dogs and cats are the most common culprits. Pet allergy sufferers often think it’s pet hair that causes all that sneezing, runny noses, and itchy eyes. But pet hair just serves as a vehicle for other allergens, attracting dust, urine, saliva, and pet dander, and when people think they’re reacting to the hair itself, they’re really reacting to other allergens that are just hitching a ride. Pet allergies are caused by dander, and if you have pets, dander circulates throughout your home constantly, and may be affecting your family’s overall health.
The Dirt on Dander
Dander can be a tough challenge for pet owners; especially for allergy sufferers. It’s made up of microscopic flecks of skin that’s shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds — and really any animal with fur or feathers. Dander is continuously shed by furry pets, so unless your trusty sidekick is a turtle, frog, fish, or other less-snuggly critter, you’ve got dander lurking in your home.
While you may diligently clean up after your pet, dander is microscopic and can linger for a very long time. It can cling to carpet, furniture, bedding, clothes, walls, and just about any household surface. It can even make its way into your home’s air ducts, where it can then circulate throughout your home anytime the furnace or air conditioner is running.
How Pet Dander Affects Health
For those with allergies triggered by pets, breathing in pet dander can make respiratory symptoms worse. Even though sensitivity levels may vary from person to person, individuals who experience reactions may have symptoms like:
- Runny nose
- Itchy or watery eyes
An Explanation of Allergies
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, an allergic reaction happens when your body’s natural defense system — the immune system — releases antibodies as it tries to fight off a substance it thinks is harmful. These antibodies are responsible for allergy symptoms like swollen, itchy, watery eyes; sneezing and runny noses; and skin rashes. People who experience allergic reactions tend to have sensitive immune systems that mistake harmless things, like pet dander, for an evil invader.
While most people experience allergies for a brief time after coming in contact with the allergen, some people who are exposed continuously over long periods of time may develop chronic issues like asthma. Asthma is a condition in which the airways in the body become swollen and inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. Uncontrolled asthma can be dangerous.
If someone in your home has asthma that is irritated by exposure to pet dander, or if you have regular visitors who have health concerns related to exposure to pet dander, you can take steps to limit their exposure and the complications of coming into contact with pet dander.
But don’t worry. If someone living in your home, or even regular visitors, has allergies or asthma that is irritated by exposure to pet dander, you don’t have to give up your loveable furry friend! Following are six ways to reduce pet dander in your home.
- Clean carpets, furniture, and curtains regularly. Vacuum frequently, and keep in mind that steam cleaning carpets and furniture (professional or DIY) will remove dander from surfaces, as well as deep down. Even using a sticky lint roller can be a quick fix for removing dander from surfaces.
- Dust surfaces with a damp cloth to trap and remove dust and dander.
- Declutter spaces. Pet dander sticks to any surface, including walls. Having fewer nick-knacks that dander can cling to not only makes it easier to clean effectively, but also gives dander fewer places to hide.
- Give Fido a bath. Regularly bathing your pet sends excess dander down the drain, rather than into the air your family breathes in your home.
- Get serious about filtration. Use a HEPA filter in your home’s air handling system. HEPA filters are designed to do a better job catching tiny particles of pet dander. You might also try using an air filter or purifier with a HEPA filter a few hours each day to circulate the air and remove excess pet dander. However, this doesn’t clean pet dander that is stuck to surfaces.
- Clean your home’s air ducts. A thorough, professional air duct cleaning not only removes built-up pet dander, but also cleans it off the surfaces inside the air ducts, ensuring a next-level clean that is impossible to achieve with just filtration or air purification. Make sure you choose a qualified contractor to ensure the job is done right. NADCA makes it really simple for homeowners to find a certified air duct cleaning professional. All it takes is a zip code to search our online directory to find a NADCA member in your area.
Eliminating pet dander from your home entirely can be an impossible task. However, the above recommendations can help control the build-up of pet dander and alleviate symptoms for allergy sufferers.
More About Air Duct Cleaning
Did you know that the air in your home — along with those pesky pet allergens — typically circulates through the HVAC system and air ducts five to seven times each day? During the circulation process, it’s common for allergens and other airborne contaminants to settle in the air ducts. Eliminating pet dander from your home entirely can be a nearly impossible task, but by having your air ducts properly cleaned, you lessen the opportunity for dander to accumulate and be redistributed back into the air you and your family breathe.
So, who can you turn to for your air duct cleaning needs? It’s important to be aware of deals that seem too good to be true. These companies, known as “blow-and-go” or “bait-and-switch” contractors, often advertise too-good-to-be-true rates, and then convince customers that the job will require additional cleaning, leaving the unsuspecting homeowner with a hefty bill and poorly cleaned air ducts.
Should you decide to have your air ducts cleaned professionally, make sure you choose a qualified contractor to ensure the job is done right. NADCA makes it really simple for homeowners to find a certified air duct cleaning professional. All it takes is a zip code to search our online directory to find a NADCA member in your area.