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Twelve ways to avoid asthma while loving your pet.

Any asthma sufferer allergic to their pet would improve their condition if they found another home for the animal. Yet many cannot face going through with this and decide to keep the pet and suffer. However, you can take steps to make living with your pet easier.

Firstly, understand that a shorthaired animal can trigger asthma as easily as a longhaired animal. The problem is not hair. Animal saliva, sweat, urine and dander (flakes of dead skin) can act as powerful allergens. Petting, grooming or vacuuming can stir the allergen into the air leaving it to float through the air for hours.

If you cannot bear to part from your pet try these measures:

1. Decide which areas of the house will become your exclusion zones. I recommend you never allow your pet into at least two rooms, the bedroom and lounge. You may want to add other rooms to the list. If your pet once slept in those rooms, wash as much of the bedding or upholstery as possible and consider buying a new mattress and duvet. Keep the animalís bed in another room, perhaps a utility room or lobby. For a cat, sprinkle some catnip there to make the area seem more attractive.

2. Make sure anyone handling your pet washes their hands before touching the asthmatic person or entering the pet-free rooms.

3. Keep the pet outdoors as much as possible. You could build it a shed or out-house and make it as warm and comfortable as you can. Feed the pet there sometimes so that it feels at home.

4. If you allow your pet into the house consider replacing allergen friendly surfaces. Furniture should be made of wood or have leather or vinyl covers. Carpets should be replaced with cork tiles, vinyl flooring or linoleum. Another option is to polish the floorboards.

5. Regularly air the house and keep some windows ajar when the cat or allergic person is in the home. You could get an HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrester) air filter to keep the air throughout your home as pure as possible, but it will only remove airborne allergens, not those left on furniture and carpets.

6. If your home uses forced-air heating seal up the air ducts and use portable room heaters instead. This will prevent the allergen entering the pet-free rooms.

7. Do not use fans or fan heaters. These will blow allergens that settle on carpets and furniture up into the air. Research has shown that some pet allergens can take up to six hours to settle once they are disturbed.

8. When you clean the house use an anti-allergy vacuum cleaner that filters and keeps allergens. If you need to purchase one check that the vacuum cleaner can filter out the allergens.

9. Frequently wash dogs with lukewarm water and shampoo. Ideally get a non-asthmatic to do this. For cats gently wipe the fur with a damp cloth or use a shower. Unfortunately, while these methods will take a lot of allergen off the cat they will not remove all of it. Some research has found that totally immersing the cat in water will remove most allergens, so you could try that if you donít mind all the scratches it will probably earn you!

10. A non-asthma sufferer should also brush the pet regularly outside the house.

11. Clean out pet cages and litter boxes outside the home. If possible get a non-asthmatic to do this job too.

12. If your pet is a tomcat get him neutered. The male of the species produces most allergen, but the amount declines after neutering. Cats vary greatly in the amount of allergen they produce. If you have more than one, keep each cat in the house for a while to find out which one is least allergenic.

If your asthma is severe and triggered by pet allergens the best advice is to find a new home for the animal. However if your asthma is fairly mild and you cannot bear to be parted from this member of your familyFind Article, try some of the above measures and you may be able to avoid asthma while loving your pet.

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David Kane is the author of Ď101 Top Tips for Asthma Reliefí and has produced a number of resources to help asthma sufferers monitor and control their condition.
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