You Might Be Allergic To Cats If This Happens To You

People love cats. The sheer number of cat videos online is proof of that. But some people love cats better from a distance. Getting near a cat can set off allergic reactions that range from the mildly irritating to events requiring medical attention.

Most people with severe cat allergies find out at a young age. Just being in the same room with a cat owner can set off the reaction. But people with milder allergies may not realize that they're having a reaction at all. The symptoms are mild enough that it is easy to blame on something else entirely.

Environmental allergies — those caused by things like animals, plants, and air pollution — tend to cause symptoms in the nose and around the eyes. The reaction in the eyes is called "allergic conjunctivitis" and, according to Harvard Health Publishing, it is caused when the inner lining of the eye (the conjunctiva) becomes swollen ('itis' in medical terms usually means swelling).

The nose gets involved when you breathe in an allergen. At that point your sinuses become inflamed which causes postnasal drips, stuffy noses, a swollen feeling in the face, and even headaches, according to Mayo Clinic.

People with asthma might experience more aggressive symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and acute asthma attacks. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has a page specifically dedicated to people with asthma as well as animal allergies, urging them to limit their contact and talk to a doctor before getting a cat if they don't already have one.

What causes cat and pet allergies

Allergies seem confusing on the surface. Why would cat fur aggravate some people while others are completely fine? The answer is, surprisingly, an overactive immune system. Mayo Clinic explains that most people are allergic to an animal's skin and saliva. In the case of cats, dead skin flakes are removed during the grooming process and end up in the fur. From there they end up in the air, dust, and cloth around them.

And despite the cat's popularity, cat allergies are more common than most people believe. The Allergy and Asthma Network states that one in five people have allergies, citing the CDC in their estimation. That's more than 50 million people. The network also estimates that allergies lead to four million missed work days a year and cost about eight billion dollars annually.

Allergies rarely stop pet lovers from getting a cat. The little balls of fur are just too irresistible. And that's fine, since most allergies can be managed using over-the-counter medication and frequent vacuuming. But for those with asthma or severe allergies, the risk may just be too high.

If you think you have a cat allergy, ask a doctor to perform an allergy reaction test. That test, combined with your symptoms, can pinpoint the cause of your reactions.