When animal proteins are shed or dry in animal fur, or become airborne, they can attach to carpeting, furniture and other objects and trigger allergies in people. Allergies are most common in children but can develop later in life, or recur at any time.
Which animals cause allergies?
Household pets, such as dogs and cats, are the most common, but anything with fur or feathers, such as birds, rodents (hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, mice) or livestock can cause symptoms. "Non-allergenic" breeds of dogs and cats are popular, but can still trigger allergies, as can products made with feathers or down, like certain pillows and comforters.
What happens during an allergic reaction?
Allergic reaction may occur in the skin, eyes, lining of the stomach, nose, sinuses, throat and lungs. Reactions can result in:
- Rhinitis: nasal stuffiness, sneezing, nasal itching, nasal discharge, itching in ears or roof of mouth
- Allergic conjunctivitis: red, itchy, watery eyes
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema): red, itchy, dry skin
- Urticaria: hives or itchy welts
- Contact dermatitis: itchy rash
- Asthma: shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing
Are allergies genetic?
There is a tendency for allergies to occur in families, although the exact genetic factors that cause them aren't yet understood.