Growing up, my family never had pets because my dad had asthma and my sister, pretty bad allergies herself. I’ve always suffered from severe seasonal allergies, but never had issues around friends’ pets. In college I lived with a cat I was allergic to, but I could manage my allergies if I washed my hands after being around him. It would be seven years later that I finally adopted my first dog, and all the fur, dust and dander that came along with him. That’s when the allergies hit.
It was early 2013. I’d just purchased my first condo, and had been watching the local rescues for the perfect dog for me. One day I came across this smiling face, and after a few meet-and-greets, I was the proud pet parent of KC.
I finally had the dog I’d always dreamed of, and the first few days were great. But as KC settled to our home, my allergies started coming on. A few sneezes turned into more sneezing, itchy eyes, and a runny nose. These symptoms became the norm. It was hard, and I found myself wondering if I’d made a huge mistake. However, KC was my buddy. He’d been rescued from a kill shelter, moved across the country, and finally ended up with me after a few weeks with his foster. I wasn’t about to give up on him, so I set out to learn what I could do to manage my allergies.
I decided to make an appointment with an allergy doctor. The tests came back off the charts, and the doctor was left wondering how I ever made it through the spring and summer. I was allergic to grasses, trees, flowers, dogs, cats, horses—and the list goes on. I decided on allergy shots, but it would take two to three years to start seeing benefits with them.
I should note that I was lucky enough to have insurance that covered this treatment 100%. Had this not been the case, or had I not also suffered from bad seasonal allergies, I would have managed my dog allergies differently for the long term. Allergy shots have been life changing for me, but I will never be 100% allergy free. And I had to wait 3 years for the full effect, which meant I needed a plan to manage my allergies to my dog in the meantime.
Here’s what worked for me.
HEPA Filters, Furminators, and a Safe Space
The first thing I did was buy a HEPA Air Purifier. When these purifiers are running, they’re constantly cycling the air in your home through a HEPA filter, and spitting out clean air. After a week of use I was amazed at how much dust, hair, and dander I could see on the filter.
The same day I went to the pet store and paid a small fortune for a Furminator. Looking back on it, this brush is worth every penny. Along with regular baths, I made it a point to brush KC at least once a week. We had our brushing parties in the yard, and I made sure to get any loose fur off before we went back inside.
The last thing I did was the hardest. I made the bedroom a KC-free zone. This meant I had a sort of clean room I could go to for a reprieve. Of these first three steps, this one gave me the biggest relief from allergies.
Vacuum, Dust, Repeat, and a Little Genie Lamp
Even with these steps, there was still a comical amount of hair in my condo. I made it a habit to vacuum twice a week and dust every weekend. It was a hard routine to get into, but seeing the amount of grime the vacuum picked up gave me satisfaction. There was a noticeable difference in my allergies after I cleaned.
Still, allergies would strike. When they came on I would use a neti pot to clean out my sinuses of the allergens. Using a neti pot is a very weird sensation, but it helped tremendously. I still use it to this day if I notice my allergies in the spring, or feel an illness coming on.
By far the most important thing I did to manage my allergies was take the proper medications. For the longest time I didn’t want to take medications, but after seeing the doctor it was made very clear to me that Zyrtec and Flonase would improve my quality of life. I found affordable generic versions, and after a week, my symptoms dropped a lot. KC and I were free to rough house, watch Broncos games, and do everything together. I even let KC come and go from the bedroom as he pleased. He now sees the bed as his bed that I am allowed to use, in fact.
I do know that if I ever forgot any part of my allergy medicine during peak season, even for a day, I’d notice a significant increase in symptoms.
My Life Today
Three years of allergy shots flew by, and I’m no longer on them. While my allergies will never be completely gone, the shots helped immensely. I still take an allergy pill every night in the spring, but the rest of the year I don’t have to think about it. By following my routine above, life was great for the three years I was receiving shots. I wasn’t hindered by my allergies, and was able to happily co-exist with a dog in the house. I’m confident that if I decided against allergy shots, I would have been able to successfully manage my allergies and have a dog with no issues.
I’d highly recommend anyone with allergies go see a doctor, even if it’s just for the information. Having a pet is an amazing, rewarding experience. Don’t let allergies stop you!
Thanks to Josh Bartley for sharing this story!