Cat Allergies – Why Am I Still Sneezing When My Pet Is Gone?

I have asthma and am allergic to cats. I used to have a cat, but she no longer lives with me. I’ve removed all the carpet from my home, except for in one room, and installed wood floors. I clean all the time, including the upholstery. Despite all this I’m still having asthma symptoms. Do you have any suggestions?

In one sense cats are an allergist’s best friend (they give us voluminous amounts of business) and worst foe (they can trigger serious asthma symptoms but are so lovable their owners often refuse to remove them from the home).

Remember that a single exposure to a strong antigen, such as that from a cat, can cause airway
hyperirritability and thus asthma symptoms for up to 30 days following exposure. Daily exposure can inflame airways and provoke asthma symptoms for quite some time, even after the animal is gone.

The cat antigen is very “sticky” and adheres to carpets, walls, furniture, and clothes. Proper cleaning is necessary and can be aided by commercial products that contain 10 percent tannic acid, which denatures the cat antigen. Still, it can take months for all of the antigen to dissipate. Often symptoms continue simply because the asthma has not been treated adequately and just cleaning the environment may not be enough.

Finally, remember that there may be other reasons for continued symptoms, such as other allergens, chest infection, sinusitis, or gastroesophageal reflux. For persistent symptoms you should see you physician or an asthma specialist.

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