Friday, March 21, 2008

Can Your Cat’s Allergies Make Yours Worse?

Springtime not only brings warmer weather, but also seasonal allergies as well. Hay fever-like symptoms are common, as are exacerbated allergy and asthma side effects, but it’s interesting to note that humans aren’t the only ones who suffer. Blooming grasses, flowers, and plants can also trigger allergic reactions in dogs and cats, and this will often lead pets to persistently scratching, licking, and biting to get relief.

Unfortunately, when your pets suffer from allergies, your symptoms can also be affected. Particularly in cats, the real culprit behind cat allergies stems from cat saliva, and not fur, as commonly thought. This allergen is called Fel d1, and when a cat licks or bites itself, the saliva is deposited on its fur. This saliva then dries into dust which is released when your cat scratches, moves, or when stroked or brushed by humans. With that in mind, if your cat is itching, it will bite and scratch to get relief, and this will disperse more of the Fel d 1 allergen into the air you breathe – making your allergies even worse.

To counter pet allergies, many people try to regularly brush the animal, vacuum, change coverings, and even use sticky rollers on clothing, but cat hair can still end up floating in the air. Allergy furnace filters and air purifiers can keep you from sneezing, but what about your cat’s allergies?

While the above methods work well at keeping pet allergies to a minimum, one of the best ways to control pet allergies is to address the problem before it begins, and the key to minimizing pet dander is to keep your cat’s skin properly moisturized. In warm, arid climates, cats tend to shed because of dry skin, and installing a humidifier can help alleviate this problems. Switching your cat’s food from dry kibble to canned will also work, as this introduces more moisture into your cat’s skin from within.

Following this advice is sure to keep you and your pet’s allergy symptoms at bay.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Are You Breathing in Polluted Air?

We often think that air pollution only occurs outdoors, but unfortunately, studies have repeatedly shown that the air inside our homes or offices can be many times more polluted than the air outside due to building materials, smoke, and consumer products. In fact, according to a 1987 study conducted by the EPA, indoor air pollution was ranked fourth in cancer risk among the top 13 environmental problems analyzed. Also, because buildings constructed after the 1970’s were built to be more air-tight and energy efficient, these indoor pollutants can build up at a much higher rate than outdoor levels.

Therefore, to educate the public on the effects of indoor air pollution, the California Air Resources Board has published information about the sources and potential health effects of indoor air pollutants in an attempt to educate the public. Here is a brief overview:

Pollutant: Tobacco smoke
Major Indoor Sources: Cigarettes, cigars, and pipes
Potential Health Effects: Respiratory irritation, bronchitis, emphysema, lung cancer, and heart disease

Pollutant: Carbon monoxide
Major Indoor Sources: Unvented or malfunctioning gas appliances, wood stoves, and tobacco smoke
Potential Health Effects: Headache, nausea, impaired vision, and death at high concentrations

Pollutant: Formaldehyde
Major Indoor Sources: Pressed wood products, furnishings, wallpaper, and durable press fabrics
Potential Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; allergic reactions; cancer

Pollutant: Particles
Major Indoor Sources: Cigarettes, wood stoves, aerosol sprays, house dust
Potential Health Effects: Eye, nose, and throat irritation; respiratory infections; bronchitis; lung cancer

Pollutant: Radon
Major Indoor Sources: Soil under buildings, construction materials, and groundwater
Potential Health Effects: Lung cancer

Pollutant: Biological agents (bacteria, viruses, fungi, animal dander, and mites)
Major Indoor Sources: House dust; pets; bedding; humidifiers and dehumidifiers; wet or moist structures; and furnishings
Potential Health Effects: Allergic reactions, asthma, eye, nose, and throat irritation; influenza; humidifier fever; and other infectious diseases

Of course, the above is just a partial list, but to decrease exposure to indoor air pollution, the Resources Board recommends preventing or minimizing the release of indoor pollutants in the first place. This involves using products safely, restricting smoking, using appliances properly, selecting building materials and furniture carefully, and providing adequate ventilation. In addition, using a quality air purifier with True HEPA filtration will also help eliminate up to 99.97% of large particles 0.3 microns or larger, such as dust, dander, and mold.

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