There are many people among us who suffer from different allergies. Some can’t eat peanuts, some people can’t afford to be getting stung by a bee, others can’t be prescribed certain medications – but the most tragic allergies of allergies, are the people who can’t have certain pets.
Surprisingly, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 3 in 10 people who suffer from other allergies will also have pet allergies. That means that up to 20% of the population has an allergy to pets, meaning that owning a pet isn’t always a feasible dream. There are many health benefits to having a dog, such as higher heart attack survival rates. And while you may be thinking that you’ll have to forgo all companionship, it turns out that this may not be the case if you’re allergic. As it turns out, you may not be allergic to all dogs.
Dog breeds that don’t shed or are hairless are thought to be “hypoallergenic,” however, that’s not necessarily the case. Pet allergies aren’t triggered by animal hair. Proteins in the saliva and dander, of both cats and dogs, are what actually cause the allergic reactions.
Dr. Lakiea Wright, an allergist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, explained to CNN, “Up to 30% of people who are allergic to dogs are actually allergic to one specific protein that’s made in the prostate of a dog.”
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So far, six specific dog allergens have been identified. Additionally, it is possible to be allergic to one dog protein, but not the others. This means that someone with dog allergies may not have a reaction to certain dog breeds – or even certain genders. So, it’s still completely possible to get a dog.
“If you’re allergic to only that specific protein in the male dog, you may be able to tolerate a female or a neutered dog,” Dr. Wright said to CNN.
Male dogs produce a specific protein called Can f 5. The protein, which is made in the prostate, is then spread to the dog’s hair and skin during urination.
“These proteins are very lightweight, so they get dispersed in the air as the animal moves around,” Dr. Wright explained to CNN. “They can also stay in the air for a long time and land on our furniture, mattress, even our clothes.”
Allergists can test for allergies to Can f 5 through a simple blood test or skin prick.
Dr. Wright mentioned, “When we suspect a dog allergy, we’re testing for that whole allergen. But then we’re also looking at specific proteins, the parts that make up the whole, to refine that diagnoses.”
Interestingly, owning a dog could actually prevent future allergy developments. Studies have found that being exposed to a dog prior to the age of one, may actually protect against future allergies. Also, being around dogs could lower a child’s risk of asthma.
And, when all else fails, you can just load up on the allergy medication – pets are worth it since they’re what make a house a home.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.
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