Pets can bring a lot of joy into your life, but did you know that they can also impact the quality of your indoor air? Pet allergies impact up to 12% of families in the United States, but pet dander and fur isn’t the only way that pets can affect your respiratory system. Take a look at the information below to learn more about how pets affect the quality of your home’s indoor air and what you can do to improve it.
Dander and Fur
Scientists claim that cat allergens and allergic reactions in humans are closely linked. This is partly because cats’ fur can hold on to dander and saliva, which is then shed as they scratch or groom themselves.
Cat hair might be annoying to deal with when it gets on your clothes, but it’s actually not what causes allergic reactions. Instead, it’s their dander (dead skin cells) and saliva, which contain a protein called “Fel d1.” This protein is the most common culprit of cat-related allergic reactions in humans. It’s particularly sticky and can adhere to pet fur and dander, hence the allergic reactions associated with them.
This is why so many people with cat allergies have symptoms, including watery eyes, runny noses, and congestion. Cat allergies also can create an unpleasant build-up of mucus, making breathing more difficult.
Dog allergies are a little less common than cat allergies; the proteins that cause allergic reactions related to dogs are known as “Can f,” with multiple common varieties (numbered one through four). Though the dander produced by cats and dogs are different — hence why some people are allergic to cats but not dogs or vice versa — they produce the same immune system response in those with pet allergies: the body thinks the allergen is a foreign germ and reacts to protect itself. Even hypoallergenic dogs that rarely shed will still leave behind small amounts of dander, though they can be much easier on people with pet allergies or asthma.
It’s important to note that, as a general rule, it’s not the pet’s fur itself that can pose problems; clean fur will generally not cause issues. Rather, pet fur can carry saliva, dander, and even bodily waste, all of which may cause allergic reactions. Furthermore, pet allergies aren’t caused by contact with animals! If you have mild pet allergies, repeated contact with the animal can actually help desensitize your system to the allergens.
That being said, even clean pet fur can pose a problem for your indoor air quality; after all, even if you’re not allergic, you probably don’t want to be inhaling your pet’s hair. If you’re sensitive to pet allergens, it’s critical to clean your home regularly, as carpets and rugs can trap pet fur and dander, not to mention they’re harder to clean than hard surfaces like tile or cement. This extends to your furniture, too, as pet allergens can settle into a variety of surfaces that you come into contact with.
According to studies, merely cleaning up after your pets reduces the number of allergens they create. This is especially true if you have numerous pets; according to some studies, having two dogs or even two cats in the house can double the number of allergens produced.
Pet Dander Removers
While the greatest way to decrease allergens is to clean up after your pets, many pet owners find removing their fur from the floors difficult. Fortunately, several pet dander removers on the market can assist you with this cleaning task. Pet dander removers are often designed to be used on hard floor surfaces, making them excellent for use in institutions with many pets. Pet dander removers are especially great for getting into hard-to-reach areas like the grout in tile floors.
Before you use your pet dander remover, vacuum up any pet hair or other debris in the area and dispose of it. Then, spray your pet dander remover over the area and scrub with a brush or a towel.
Dander and flying fur aren’t the only way that pets can impact your indoor air quality. Pet waste, for instance, can lead to odors and bacteria in your home’s air. Just as humans use the bathroom to dispose of bodily waste, pet excrement needs to also be taken care of.
What might not occur to you, though, is that your pets can inadvertently transfer allergens from outside. Since the source of the allergen isn’t the dog or cat itself, you might not even realize that your furry friend is the source of your sniffling and sneezing. From pollen to dust, flowers to leaves, a variety of particulates can find themselves trapped in your pet’s fur before being released into the air as you pet them or brush them. Even the most hypoallergenic pet can still cause reactions if they come into contact with allergens on a high-pollen day, which in turn can decrease the quality of your indoor air.
Keep in mind that while your pet’s fur might be a source of allergens, you don’t want to bathe them too often. Hot water can dry out your pet’s skin, as can overuse of pet shampoo. The exact amount of time you should go between baths varies depending on the pet and its breed.
Maintaining Indoor Air Quality with Pets
The good news is, there are a variety of ways you can manage your indoor air quality and still have your pets around, and there’s more to it than just bathing Fido regularly. A quick once-over with a damp towel can often catch a good amount of the pollen, dust, and other allergens your pet might have picked up while outside. Brushing your pet also helps remove particulates that might get stuck in their fur, preventing them from circulating throughout your home.
Other ways to manage your indoor air quality have less to do with your pets themselves, but they’ll still reduce the impact your pet has on your air’s quality. Be sure to change your HVAC air filter every month, and consider investing in one that’s rated to catch allergens. Look for filters with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) of 14-16, which is on the higher end of residential filter quality.
If you renovate your space, keep pets away from the area you’re renovating. This will reduce the amount of dust that settles in their fur, which can help them just as much as it helps you. As much as you might want to sleep with your dog, too, if allergies are a concern, you may need to set up a space for them that’s not part of your bedroom.
Finally, consider getting an air purifier. UV air purifiers work specifically to deactivate viruses and bacteria, but they don’t do anything for allergens like pet dander or annoyances like flying fur. That’s where filtration comes in! In addition to your HVAC system’s filter, there are a variety of air purifiers on the market that circulate air and filter out particulates that are present in the same room. Many of them use HEPA filters, which are the same kind of filters used in medical facilities. HEPA filters may not be suited for use with full residential air conditioning systems, but they can be useful in smaller, room-based purifiers for your home.
Whether you have a question about indoor air quality, need advice about air purifiers, or want to get your HVAC inspected, reach out to Environmental Heating & Air Solutions. We’ve served residents of Northern California since 2010 and are ready to help you out. We also offer a variety of heating, cooling, and plumbing services!