Allergy attacks don’t quite set the mood for romance, and if your body is exhibiting such signs of uncontrollable intolerance to your significant other’s pet, you can definitely feel me on this. Sneeze fests make it impossible to enjoy whatever you’re trying to watch during your Netflix-and-chill night, and sniffles couldn’t get more in the way of the makeout sesh to which the binge-watching inevitably gives way. Maybe you’re just itchy all over and unable to breathe comfortably, which may not be directly disruptive to your date night, but geez, what a downer! And it’s all because of your love’s furry friend. I experience all of this whenever I’m at my new boo’s place because I’m allergic to his cat.
Plenty of couples are tasked with the obstacle of overcoming a pet allergy. I know someone who went so far as to give away their kitty because their S.O. was so severely allergic. But despite the fact that the best way to completely avoid allergy symptoms is to avoid spaces where the pets you’re allergic to reside, some people find a way to coexist—so, since I don’t anticipate a break-up anytime soon, I consulted the pros to figure out how this is possible.
“Cat and dog allergies affect 10 percent of Americans, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunocology,” says Dr. Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist with Allergy and Asthma Network. “And twice as many people have a cat allergy as a dog allergy.” Even if you’ve successfully shared space with a cat or a dog in the past, an allergy can still develop later in life, which is—womp womp,—what happened to me. “For those predisposed to allergies, [repeated exposure to the allergen] can cause the development of allergies, especially if someone lived with the cat or dog and then was re-exposed,” Dr. Parikh says. But whether your allergy is new or something you’ve been dealing with for years, there are certainly ways to make sure your S.O.’s pet isn’t a deal-breaker.
Check out expert-approved 3 tips to deal with an allergy to your S.O.’s pet
1. Keep your distance
First things first: Despite those puppy-dog eyes you’ll undoubtedly receive, try and keep the pet in a different room than the where you’re hanging out—or at least away from where you’ll sleep. “Keep the animal out of the bedroom,” Dr. Parikh says. “That, and getting an air purifier to remove allergenic particles from the air are your best bets.”
2. Become a clean freak
It’s also key to keep things clean, since the animal’s allergens—which, by the way, doesn’t have to come from just fur—saliva is also a culprit—land all over the place. “Cleaning is helpful, but it has to be done often,” says Dr. Parikh. Also, pay extra-special attention to any carpeting. “Bare floors are best, but if you have carpets, frequent vacuuming with an HEPA filter is important,” says LanAnh Do, MD, an allergist and immunologist.
Cleaning the animal itself is also a good thing. (But if you have a cat, good luck—they’re notoriously tough to wash. Seriously, just do a Google Image search for “cat in a bath” if you don’t believe me.). “Frequent washing of the animal, once or twice a week, helps with allergies,” says Dr. Do.
Of course, it goes without saying, but—even if the pet is clean—the allergic one in the relationship should avoid cuddling it (much to my detriment). “Avoid petting, hugging, or kissing the pet,” she advises. “But if you do, wash your hands with soap and water. And always change your clothes after exposure with the animal.”
3. Head to the pharmacy
There are also over-the-counter allergy pills that you could try on for size. “Steroid nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasacort, along with oral antihistamines are very safe long-term,” Dr. Do says. “Stay away from Afrin or Sudafed long-term—more than three days—as these are not safe. That includes any antihistamine with a ‘D’ in the name. For example, plain Zyrtec is fine, Zyrtec-D is not.”
If you’re having breathing problems, though, Dr. Parikh suggests seeing a physician, stat, who may prescribe controller medicine to makes sure things don’t take a turn for the dangerous. When I saw my doctor for such breathing issues, I ended up being the proud owner of an inhaler and restored normal breathing.
In the case that these techniques don’t quite cut it, immunotherapy is also an option. “If allergies are very bad, see a board-certified allergist for allergy shots, which is immunotherapy,” he says. “This desensitizes you to be less allergic to the pet by giving small, controlled and increasing doses of the allergen, which lessens the severity by making the immune system more tolerant. A lucky few can attain a full cure.”
Since the last thing you want is a cute animal coming between you and your flame, take special care to ensure you can enjoy the love rather than sniffle and suffer while going through the motions.
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