Homes around the world have fully embraced our furry friends, with pets of all shapes and sizes being adopted into the family. So much so, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology states that almost 62% of all households in the U.S. have pets.
However, despite the strong connection we can develop with animals, sometimes human biology can get in the way. For many people, living with a pet or visiting a loved one who owns pets can cause allergic reactions affecting their comfort and health.
Why are we allergic to our pets?
Allergies occur when our body’s immune system identifies a harmless substance, such as pet dander, pollen, or peanuts, as a threat. Of course, this isn’t the fault of the pet or person but is down to how our immune system can sometimes overreact to external substances.
Once the body comes into contact with the supposed threat, the immune system kicks into overdrive resulting in an inflammation of the membranes that line our eyes, nose, and throat. This leads to symptoms such as a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, and shortness of breath. While physical contact with pet dander can exacerbate eczema, hives, or asthma.
When it comes to pet allergies, there is a common misconception that it is the hair that is the primary trigger. However, the AAFA states that pet hair is not an allergen. Instead, most people react to pet dander, the flecks of skin shed by our pets. Dander proves to be the key driver of allergies due to its minuscule size, allowing it to remain suspended in the air for hours and easily spread around the home.
Other triggers can include proteins such as sweat, saliva, and urine that can also easily make their way throughout your home. Although hair or fur won’t trigger allergies itself, it can in fact be a carrier for other pet allergens as well as picking up other potential allergen pollutants such as dust or pollen too.
Do Air Purifiers Work For Pet Allergies?
So, is it possible to reduce the symptoms of pet allergies and live harmoniously alongside our four-legged friends?
Absolutely! There are many ways you can manage allergens such as pet dander, fur, urine, and sweat. By keeping your home and the air you breathe spick and span, implementing a pet grooming routine, and creating pet-free zones in certain areas of your home, you will certainly notice a happier and healthier life with your pet.
Investing in an air purifier is one of the most effective ways to reduce your exposure to pet allergens. Studies have shown that operating high-efficiency air filters like HEPA can lower concentrations of asthma triggers and allergens in indoor air within the home by more than 50%. Targeted use of air purifiers in pet hotspots, alongside other environmental management measures, can boost this figure even further.
As your and your family’s health always comes first, you must opt for a purifier up to the task at hand. Plenty of products on the market promise the world but deliver very little. To ensure you choose the right purifier for your needs, pay close attention to its filtration, its CADR rating, and the suggested room size suitability. You might want to look at what we think are the best air purifiers for pet odors and best air purifiers for cat allergies, so you start your research from the point of reference. To capture pet dander and other pollutants effectively, you’ll require a HEPA filtration machine. This is the benchmark for air purifier filters, being certified by the United States Department of Energy to remove at least 99.97% of any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. As pet dander on average, is between 2.5 and 5 microns, these filters will effectively capture most allergens that pass through.
Next, you’ll want to research the purifiers’ clean air delivery rate (What is CADR?). This rating, provided by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, offers an excellent insight into the power and performance of a purifier. The CADR score is calculated by measuring the volume of clean air produced under controlled conditions. Whilst looking at high CADR air purifiers is a good first step, be sure also to include looking at independent reviews for the particular air purifier that you want to go with as CADR is not the only factor as it doesn’t account for VOCs and odors in its tests and doesn’t provide long term insight on performance.
But as we said it’s a good first step.
As each purifier is designed and rated on its performance within a given sized space, you’ll want to measure the rooms where you plan to utilize the machine and ensure the purifier provides adequate coverage.
While installing an air purifier into your home won’t provide a cure, it will greatly reduce your exposure to triggering substances, alleviate symptoms and help you manage the adverse effects of a pet allergy. It’s important to remember that these steps may not provide enough relief for those with severe allergies and prolonged exposure to allergens may result in further health complications.
What other ways can you reduce pet dander in the home?
1. Clean your house regularly
Set up and stick to a cleaning schedule. Be thorough when cleaning, methodically working through each room in the home. Be sure to target areas your pets spend most of their time in multiple times a week.
Remove carpets and soft furnishings that can trap allergens in their fibers if possible. If this isn’t an option, invest in a steam cleaning or HEPA filter vacuum cleaner capable of capturing lodged allergens.
Allergens will find a way into all the nooks and crannies around your home and can lodge there for weeks, especially if your home is cluttered.
Remove any unnecessary belongings, eradicating anything allergens can cling to. This will make cleaning easier and help ensure no allergens are left behind.
3. Regularly brush and bathe your pets
Although this is no one’s favorite chore (pets and humans alike), maintaining a grooming routine for your pets will immediately pay dividends.
Brushing and bathing your pets once a week in a designated area will help remove dander and other proteins before spreading them around the home.
4. Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter
Invest in an air purifier that can remove airborne allergens from your home and utilize them in pet hotspots.
Check that the purifier is suitable for the size of your room, look for a high CADR rating, and ensure it utilizes HEPA filtration which is certified to remove at least 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns in size.
5. Change the HEPA regularly
Over time your filter will become clogged with pollutants and cease to purify the air effectively.
Most filters last for around 6 months but be sure to check the manufacturer’s guidelines and change whenever necessary.
6. Restrict pets from certain areas
Create a safe space for allergy sufferers by keeping specific areas off-limits to your pets. Ensure doors are kept shut and reduce cross-contamination by washing your hands and changing clothes before entering.
As we spend a third of our lives in bed, keeping pets out of the bedroom, in particular, will be most beneficial.
Do HEPA air filters work for pet odors? HEPA filters are great for picking up particles in the air but less useful for odors as these are caused by gas in the air. If you want an air purifier to work with pet odors as well then look for activated charcoal filters, as these have been proven to work well with odors. If you are interested in odor, then be sure to look at what think are the best air purifiers for pet odor.
Does cleaning air ducts help with pet allergies? The average HVAC system will circulate the air around your home 5 times a day, along with any airborne pollutants and allergens. Having your air ducts properly cleaned and changing the filter on your system regularly will remove build-ups and reduce the number of allergens being cycled throughout your home.
Are Dyson air purifiers good for pet allergies? We found the Dyson range of air purifiers to be fairly low power and would recommend other units like the Alen Breathesmart 75i for larger rooms or the Smart Air Sqair for smaller rooms as they give a lot more performance for less cost.
What air purifier is best for pet allergies? Pet dander is a fairly large particle easily picked up by HEPA-based filters. Be sure to keep an eye on what we think is best air purifier for pets based on the full set of air purifiers we have reviewed which is focused on those who live with pets, including those with allergies.
Can you use an ionizer with animals? This is something we would have avoided recommending 10 years ago. Still, now the ionizers in use in modern air purifiers don’t create significant amounts of ozone that normally would cause issues with pets, so we don’t see a problem – but if you have concerns stick to pure HEPA and activated charcoal without ionizers.
Can you use masks to deal with pet allergies? Yes, many masks we use for Covid-19 can be useful for stopping pet dander and can be a fairly cheap way to deal with pet allergies in the short term.
Suffering from pet allergies can be a heartbreaking realization. Especially for children who may feel disconnected from the family pet or be restricted where they can go. However, it’s by no means a given that you should give away your pet.
By maintaining thorough cleaning practices, creating pet-free zones, and most importantly eradicating allergens from the air with an air purifier, you can greatly reduce the symptoms of pet allergies, allowing you all to live happily under one roof.