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Cat Allergy Doesn't Have to Mean Giving Up Kitty
Date:4/23/2010

For many feline fans, there are ways to live together happily, experts say

FRIDAY, April 23 (HealthDay News) -- Brandy Pitman suffers from a lifelong allergy to cats, enduring regular bouts of congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes.

Even so, it hasn't stopped her from working as an office manager for a feline veterinary hospital in Louisiana, or from inviting four strays into her home.

"They showed up and never left so I took them in," Pitman said of her domestic shorthair clan Marbles, Miss Kitty, Teachy and Callie. "There wasn't really a choice."

For many allergic cat lovers, like Pitman, living without a feline companion isn't an option. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), nearly 10 million people choose to live with pets even though they're allergic to them.

"Most people who are real cat lovers elect to suffer some, or take medicines, rather than give up their pet," said Dr. Robert Wood, division chief of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore.

For people with mild to moderate allergies, controlling flare-ups involves managing their home environment, taking medication and having their pets groomed regularly.

Cat-induced allergies affect about 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to studies, and is caused by a protein found in the animals' saliva and dander (dead skin cells.) Because felines lick their fur to keep clean, the troublesome protein, called "fel d 1," is also deposited on their coats.

What's more, the super-lightweight allergen floats through the air, sticking to walls, rugs, clothing and other surfaces.

"Most people who are real cat-allergic know pretty quickly after they've walked into a house whether there's a cat there or not -- they'll sense the beginning of a reaction happening just from what's in the air," Wood said.

Reactions run the usual ga
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