Can You Build Up an Immunity to Dog Allergies?

Dogs are often considered man’s best friends, but those who are allergic to them may think differently. Even worse, though, are the people who love dogs but can’t be around them without sneezing or feeling itchy.

Thankfully, with the help of an allergist, it is possible to increase your immunity to dog allergies, but it is a long process. For those looking for a quick fix, continue reading to see what you can do to manage your dog allergies.

What Are Allergies?

Allergies are an overreaction of your immune system to foreign substances, often referred to as allergens.

Your immune system does a great job of removing foreign bodies that can harm it. For instance, when you are sick, your immune system marks and then destroys the virus or bacteria causing the infection.

However, in the case of allergies, your body marks something that, while foreign, is not necessarily harmful. Your immune system then goes into overdrive trying to remove the foreign substance from the body.

There are many different things that can be allergens for someone, such as:

  • medicine
  • insect stings or bites
  • dust mites
  • pollen
  • latex
  • mold
  • food
  • pets

When an allergen is detected, the body produces immunoglobulin E (IgE), which is an antibody that responds to the allergen. However, these antibodies also cause allergic reactions and all the symptoms associated with that.

IgE triggers the release of histamine, which causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as increased mucus production and sneezing. It initiates these reactions in an attempt to remove the invading protein.

What Causes Dog Allergies?

Dog allergies result when the body comes into contact with some aspect of a dog and develops an allergic reaction. This could be an allergy to dog saliva, dander, or urine.

This is because dogs secrete proteins in their saliva, urine, or dead skin (dander). If your immune system is sensitive to these proteins, it can cause an allergic reaction whenever you are in contact with them.

While pet hair is not an allergen, it can hold on to dust and dander. Then when the pet hair becomes airborne, the chances of you coming into contact with the allergens increases.

Being allergic to one dog does not mean you will be allergic to all dogs, either. The dander produced by dogs can differ across breeds, so you may be more allergic to one type of dog than another.

It’s also possible to be allergic to dogs in different ways. For example, one person may be allergic to pet dander that is inhaled, while someone else is allergic to dog saliva when it comes into contact with their skin. 

Can You Build Up an Immunity to Dog Allergies?

It is possible to build up an immunity to dog allergies through a process called immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy is a way to gradually desensitize the body to allergens through injections that incrementally increase the amount of the allergen. These injections help to teach your immune system to avoid overreacting when in contact with the allergen.

Immunotherapy is not a quick fix for allergy sufferers, though, and is not something that should be attempted at home. Because there is a risk of an allergic reaction, it should only be completed with the supervision of a healthcare professional.  

Is There a Cure for Dog Allergies?

While there is no cure for dog allergies, there are steps you can take to limit your exposure to them and treat the symptoms.

Additionally, over time, it’s possible to build up a tolerance to specific allergens, which appears as an immunity.

Sometimes, allergies may also go away on their own after a few years.

What Can You Do to Manage Dog Allergies?

For those with dog allergies, there are many actions you can take to help limit your exposure to the allergens, thus reducing the symptoms you experience.

Dog-Free Bedroom

While many people like to bring their dogs into their room, or even on the bed, it is best to keep your bedroom dog-free if you have a dog allergy. By doing this you have a place in the house that you can retreat to whenever your allergy symptoms get bad.

Additionally, keeping the bedroom dog-free means that your allergy symptoms won’t affect you while you are sleeping, ensuring your sleep does not suffer from allergies.

Clean

Keeping a clean house can go a long way in helping to manage your allergies because cleaning helps to remove the potential allergens.

This may entail daily cleaning or regularly washing couches and blankets that your dogs lay on.

There’s no doubt that the frequent cleaning may become tedious, but just remember the difference it will make in your allergies.

Bathe Regularly

Bathing your dog regularly can help wash away dander so there is less chance of it becoming airborne. If your allergy symptoms get worse when bathing your dog, though, enlist the help of someone else in your house.

Along these same lines, if you ever come into contact with pet dander, saliva, or urine, be sure to wash it off your body immediately to prevent an allergic reaction. 

Try A HEPA Filter

HEPA filters are designed to remove certain allergens, such as pet dander, from the air. They can be used for A/C and heating units to help refresh the air in the entire house. Additionally, air purifiers can be bought, which can be placed in certain rooms to clean the air in there.

Medication

Over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, nasal sprays, and eye drops can help to relieve allergy symptoms. There are also prescription options, such as prescription strength antihistamines or inhalers, that can help reduce allergy symptoms.

However, to see the best results, it is recommended to pair medication with actions that reduce allergens in the surrounding area.

Switch to Hardwood

Carpets provide a place for dander and fallen hair to cling to, making it hard to remove all the allergens. By removing area rugs or replacing carpets with hardwood floors, you can reduce the number of allergens in your house.

When To See a Doctor?

If you have attempted the above tips to manage dog allergies, but your symptoms are still bothersome, it may be time to meet with a doctor. 

An allergist will have the skills specifically suited to help with allergies. They can consider your symptoms and help you with prescription medication, which may be all that you need to manage your symptoms.

An allergist can also discuss immunotherapy with you, which can help to build immunity against dog allergies in the long term.

Get Help from An Online Doctor

An online doctor is a great resource to discuss your allergies and what else you can do to relieve your symptoms. The doctors available to meet with through DrHouse can also prescribe medications.

Key Takeaways

Allergies result from an overreaction of the immune system to a foreign body, such as pollen, dust mites, or food. One type of allergen is pet dander, which consists of a protein secreted by dogs that can cause allergic reactions in those sensitive to this protein.

For those with dog allergies, there is the potential to increase immunity through immunotherapy, which gradually increases exposure to an allergen through injections. However, it is not a quick solution and must be completed by a professional to ensure your safety.

Other ways to manage your dog allergies include taking medications, setting up a dog-free zone, and utilizing HEPA air filters throughout your house. If you suffer from allergies and can’t seem to manage them, an allergist can help discuss your symptoms and receive medication if needed.

Sources

  • Tanaka, S., & Furuta, K. (2021). Roles of IgE and Histamine in Mast Cell Maturation. Cells, 10(8), 2170. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.3390/cells10082170 
  • Polovic, N., Wadén, K., Binnmyr, J., Hamsten, C., Grönneberg, R., & Palmberg, C. et al. (2013). Dog saliva – an important source of dog allergens. Allergy, 68(5), 585-592. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1111/all.12130 
  • Morris, D. (2010). Human allergy to environmental pet danders: a public health perspective. Veterinary Dermatology, 21(5), 441-449. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-3164.2010.00882.x 
  • Kilburn, S., Lasserson, T., & McKean, M. (2001). Pet allergen control measures for allergic asthma in children and adults. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews, 2010(1). doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.cd002989 
  • Shargorodsky, J., Garcia-Esquinas, E., Umanskiy, R., Navas-Acien, A., & Lin, S. (2017). Household pet exposure, allergic sensitization, and rhinitis in the U.S. population. International Forum Of Allergy &Amp; Rhinology, 7(7), 645-651. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/alr.21929 
  • Albrecht, M., & Dittrich, A. (2015). Expression and function of histamine and its receptors in atopic dermatitis. Molecular And Cellular Pediatrics, 2(1). doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1186/s40348-015-0027-1 

DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.

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