Like many people, Kerie Toms now works from home. But Toms struggles with allergies—and a pet that lives in her home isn't helping.
Toms, 61, and her partner have a cockatiel that she's allergic to—along with many other allergies. "Mold and household dust are my biggest allergies year-round, and I have seasonal allergies to tree and grass pollen," she tells Yahoo Life.
Toms also has asthma and says she's triggered by a range of things, including smoke, cooking smells, household products, strong scents, tobacco smoke, cold air, hot air, and pet dander.
Being at home like this makes me continuously exposed to allergens and other environmental triggers in the home—especially in the winter when the air is drier and not as much ventilation.Kerie Toms, pet owner & allergy sufferer
The bird "has a lot of dander," and tends to create dust from the bird cage and food. "I'm the only one that cleans the cage,"says Toms, who has a feather sensitivity. "It does contribute to a lot of dust in the home and I'm very wary of it."
But Toms says the pandemic has made her "housebound," noting that "doctor's orders are to basically shelter at home." So, she's at home—with a bird she's allergic to—more than usual. "Being at home like this makes me continuously exposed to allergens and other environmental triggers in the home—especially in the winter when the air is drier and not as much ventilation," she says.
Pet allergies can be a lot to deal with, allergist Dr. Tania Elliott tells Yahoo Life. "Pet allergies can trigger itching, sneezing, congestion, runny nose, asthma, coughing and even rashes," she says. "You can have an allergic reaction to any animal, dogs and cats—even birds."
If you struggle with pet allergies but have a pet in your home, Elliott says there are a few things you can do to get relief.
1. Start taking medication
Elliot recommends an antihistamine or steroid nasal spray. "It can help turn off the allergy symptoms in your body," she says.
2. Avoid your triggers
That can be tricky when you have a pet in your home, but Elliott says it can be helpful to minimize contact with the pet. "Don’t spend a ton of time holding, petting or playing with the animal," she suggests.
3. Wash up afterward
If you do end up playing or petting your pet, Elliott recommends washing up afterward. "Just rinse off to get rid of all the potential allergens that you may have become exposed to," she says.
4. Try to get someone else to clean up after the pet
If your pet goes to the bathroom in your home, like a cat using kitty litter or bird in a cage, you may want to see if someone else can clean up after them. "Sometimes what you're allergic to can actually be in the urine or feces," Elliott says.
5. Wash your pet regularly
It's common to have both pet and seasonal allergies, and pets that go outside can track allergens like pollen back into the house, Elliott says. That's why she recommends washing your pet at least once a week. "Not only will it get rid of outdoor pollen—it will also get rid of the pet allergen itself," she says.
6. Create an allergen-free zone in your home
If one member of your family is allergic to a pet and you want to keep the pet, Elliott suggests creating a special area that's off-limits to the pet—ideally a bedroom.
7. Run an air purifier at night
Elliott recommends running an air purifier at night in the bedroom to help filter out pet allergens that could become suspended in the air.
8. Consider immunotherapy
If you're planning to keep your pet for a long time, immunotherapy can help with allergy symptoms. "That can actually cure someone of certain allergies," Elliott says.
Considering getting a new pet? Elliott points out that there's "no such thing as a hypoallergenic pet." So, testing a pet out by spending time around them can be helpful, if you're able.
Toms says she's learning to live with her pet allergies "as best as I can," adding that "being informed and prepared by having my asthma and allergy medicines" has been helpful.