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We all know how problematic pet hair can be, but as owners we're accustomed to dealing with it. It's when pet-allergic guests come to town that we realize just how much dog and cat hair and dander there really is in our homes. Though there's little you can do to entirely eradicate the problem, there are things you can try to make your allergic visitors a little less sniffly this holiday season.
Bathe your pet with a mild, pet-safe shampoo recommended by your veterinarian. If you're really committed to keeping the allergens down for the long term, consider bathing your pet frequently. "Some studies suggest that there’s a significant reduction in the amount of pet allergens that occur with weekly washing of dogs and cats," says Dr. Andy Nish, a spokesperson for the American Academy for Asthma Allergy and Immunology.
Allergies aren’t actually caused by shedding hair; they’re triggered by a protein found in pet skin (or dander), saliva and urine. So make it a thorough scrub down, and don't miss the nooks and crannies where pets tend to lick.
Opt for an air filter that has a small-particle or HEPA filter. "HEPA filters have become more affordable, so they are a reasonable step to take in this situation,” Dr. Nish says. The units start around $100. Plan to place one in each guest bedroom, as well as common areas. And run them for a couple of days before friends and family arrive.
Plan to thoroughly clean your house a day or two before guests arrive.
A few keys things you can do to minimize allergens: Wash guests' bed linens in hot water, mop hard floors, and use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter or double bags, so you don’t expel more pet allergens into the air. LG has a line of Kompressor vacuums that pick up three times more dust, dirt and pet fluff before you need to empty them.
If possible, you should remove any rugs, particularly if they're in areas where guests will spend extended periods of time. For wall-to-wall carpeting, try to schedule a thorough shampooing a few days before you welcome guests.
"Most pet dander avoidance measures tend to be long term,” Dr. Nish says. "Since animal dander is difficult to remove, a short-term cleaning campaign won’t do much to remove the dander and allergens embedded in furniture, rugs and carpets." Allergens can persist for months — even after a pet moves out, he says.
But, at the very least, there are emotional benefits in giving guests a room that's pet free for the length of their stay. And if your allergic guests are likely to stay often, make a room in your home off limits to pets, such as a spare bedroom.
No matter how much you scrub, dust and vacuum, it's not possible to completely remove pet allergens from your house. Dinner guests who take preventive measures, like taking allergy medication before they arrive, will probably be comfortable.
Overnight guests who have allergies, however, will likely experience an allergic reaction, so keep over-the-counter allergy medication on hand should someone show signs of watery eyes and the sniffles.
Ultimately, it’s up to your guest to consult with a doctor about whether the discomfort is worth slumbering in a pet owner’s home. Sometimes, offering to put someone up in a nearby hotel is the healthiest and most comfortable option — for both the allergy sufferer and the gracious host.
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