'Working from home has made my pet allergies worse': 8 things you can do right now

Korin Miller
·4 min read

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.

Are your pet allergies worse while working from home? You're not alone. (Photo: Getty)
Are your pet allergies worse while working from home? You're not alone. (Photo: Getty)

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."

Pet allergies even extend to birds, like cockatiel parrots. (Photo: Getty)
Pet allergies even extend to birds, like cockatiel parrots. (Photo: Getty)

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.

Experts say allergy medicine is an important way to control pet allergies. (Photo: Getty)
Experts say allergy medicine is an important way to control pet allergies. (Photo: Getty)

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.

It may sound simple, but washing your hands after handling pets can reduce allergy symptoms. (Photo: Getty)
It may sound simple, but washing your hands after handling pets can reduce allergy symptoms. (Photo: Getty)

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.

In order to reduce allergies, wash your pet at least once a week. (Photo: Getty)
In order to reduce allergies, wash your pet at least once a week. (Photo: Getty)

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.

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