Increase in human allergies inc. asthma – reason? – children allergic to cats – spread of cat/dog allergen – environment – lifestyle

A Guardian article online interests me because an allergy to cats affects around 10% of people (is this an underestimate?). The conclusion of the Guardian article is that more and more of us are suffering from allergies. Medicines are struggling to keep up. Theresa MacPhail completed a monumental task of looking at the development of allergies amongst people and wrote a book about her findings (Allergic: How Our Immune System Reacts to a Changing World). She concluded that there has been a substantial increase in allergies suffered by people. Asthma is often a form of allergy. Admissions to US hospitals tripled between 1970 and 1990. Asthma rates continue to climb in developing countries.

Allergens and allergies
Allergens and allergies. Asthma can be an allergic reaction. Image: MikeB with Canva.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Allergy UK says that one in three Britons experience in allergy during their lives. 50% of British children have an allergy. Up to 50% of Europeans may be affected by an allergy by 2025. These are just examples. One of the best examples by the way is an allergy to cow’s milk. This is lactose intolerance. Cats have an allergy to cow’s milk as well. They are lactose intolerance normally. Like us they lack an enzyme to break down lactose. It causes bloating and diarrhoea at worst.

MacPhail’s research which we can rely upon included asking many experts on why we are becoming more allergic. And the sad answer is that nobody knows. The general answer by the experts is that everything that we are doing is the cause. Imprecise? It points that a general problem in the direction in which humankind is travelling in terms of the environment that we are creating.

Pollutants everywhere

It may be linked, and this is my thought, to climate change. To all the pollutants that we are producing. These pollutants are invisible but they are in the atmosphere.

There are pollutants inside the home. Domestic cats spend a lot of the time inside the home. Some are permanently inside. Pollutants can sometimes become trapped inside a home. And sometimes the air can be more polluted inside a person’s home and outside in the street (my thought).

More of us live in housing which is warmer, damper and mouldy. We have furniture which is full of upholstery-loving dust mites. Children play outdoors less often than in the past.

A lot of household cleaning materials can be damaging to humans. For example, bacteria-killing cleaning products. They might damage good bacteria. Antibiotics and their overuse can harm us in the long term.

Higher rates of allergies might be linked to a decrease in rates of breastfeeding and an increase in cesarean births. The problem is way too complex to analyse. More money needs to be pumped into research.

Children

Our findings indicate that children are more often allergic to cats than to dogs and suggest that the greater frequency of sensitization to cats may be due to increased intimacy of exposure to cats. – study “The frequency and severity of cat allergy vs. dog allergy in atopic children” dated 1983.

A study published in 1999 stated that “many children are allergic to furred pets and avoid direct contact”. A school may be a place where they become exposed to pet allergens. The study checked out airborne levels of the cat allergen at schools. The results of the study indicate “significant exposure to cat allergen at school.”

The allergen is spread through clothing from homes with cats to classrooms. The allergen is past to the clothes of children without cats. The cat allergen is getting into the homes of families where there are no cats (Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0091-6749(99)70172-7).

Airborne

Airborne dust mite allergens stay in the air for a lot less time than the cat allergen. The cat allergen can stay airborne without disturbance. It is smaller than the dust mite allergen. The dust mite allergen hits the ground after about 15 minutes. It only becomes airborne during disturbance (https://doi.org/10.1016/0091-6749(91)90249-N).

Cat allergen in homes of no cats

A study of US homes found that the dog and cat allergen were detected in a hundred percent and 99.9% of the homes respectively. This despite the fact that a dog or cat had lived in only 49% of homes in the previous six months. Both the dog and cat allergen are present in US homes universally which may surprise people. It is fascinating that the cat allergen is in homes without cats. It’s because the Fel D1 allergen is transportable on clothing (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaci.2004.04.036).

17% people allergic to cats in US?

A further study found that in America, in households with cats, 70% of people were sensitised to their animal. Only 5% of dog owners are sensitive to their animal. This is much lower than for cats. This indicates to me that 17% of cat owners in America are to some extent allergic to cats and 5% of dog owners have the same condition (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anai.2011.12.005).

Air cleaners are effective

In a further study, they concluded that air cleaners (specifically the Intense Pure Air XL) “significantly prevented early and late asthmatic response among cat-allergic asthmatics during cat allergen exposure” (https://doi.org/10.1111/cea.13511).

Abandoning

In a further study, the top three health and personal reasons for giving up cats were allergies of a member of the family to cats, the cat owner’s personal problems and a new baby. For dog owners, a dog allergy was also in the top three reasons for giving up on their companion animal. The other two reasons were a lack of time for the dog and owner’s personal problems.

Personal conclusion

I feel that allergies in general and cat and dog allergies in particular are a bigger problem than people believe. I sometimes think that I am allergic to cats in a minor way which contributes to sinusitis. How many cat owning people with sinusitis link their condition to their cat? Does the cat allergen Fel D1 contribute to sinusitis in people? I don’t know. Too complex. Not enough research. I wouldn’t give up my cat in any case. The good news is that air purifiers help. I have one. I use it not infrequently. If you’ve not got one you might have a rethink.

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