Owning a cat reduces stress and anxiety. If you find yourself sneezing every time you are around a cat, you may be allergic. All the benefits of owning a cat won't do you any good if you have itchy and watery eyes.
With cat allergy testing, you can know for certain if your reactions are from cats or something else. Here is everything you need to know about cat allergies and the tests used to diagnose and monitor them.
What Is a Cat Allergy?
An allergic reaction happens when the body responds to a foreign substance. The immune system, which protects the body from bacteria and toxins, attacks the substance. When the immune system overreacts to a harmless substance, this is an allergic reaction.
Allergic reactions to cats occur when someone comes in contact with a cat or breathes in cat dander, which is dead flakes of animal skin. Cat dander can be everywhere; carried in clothes, in the air, or settled on furniture and bedding.
Risk Factors for Cat Allergies
Most cat allergies cause a runny nose and watery eyes, but more severe reactions can cause concern. If you have respiratory issues or conditions like asthma, allergic reactions can trigger a serious attack. In fact, about 30% of those with asthma can have a severe attack when exposed to cat dander.
Those who have asthma may experience difficulty breathing, wheezing, or tightness of the chest. Even those without asthma or other respiratory conditions can experience acute symptoms such as complete blockage of the nasal passages.
Causes of Cat Allergies
What causes a cat allergy? Genetics does play a part in having pet allergies. If someone in your family is allergic to cats, the odds are that you could be allergic as well. Roughly 10% of Americans have a pet allergy. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies.
Folks who are allergic to cats have an oversensitive immune system. The system mistakes an allergen for something harmful and attacks it the same way it would a virus. Symptoms can manifest after exposure to hair, saliva, urine, or cat dander.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Cat Allergy?
Many symptoms of cat allergies can resemble the allergic rhinitis symptoms of a common cold. If the symptoms persist for several weeks, you could have a cat allergy. The only way to know for certain is to get a cat allergy test from a trusted allergist or lab.
Allergy symptoms will appear shortly after you've been exposed to cat allergens. In some cases, the symptoms may not appear for several hours if you've been exposed to a lower level of allergen.
An allergic reaction can cause swelling of the membranes around the eyes and nose, a rash on the neck or face, or coughing and wheezing if the dander was breathed deeply into the lungs.
Other common symptoms include:
- Itchy, red, or watery eyes
- Itchy nose
- Runny nose
- Nasal congestion
- Nasal pressure
How Is a Cat Allergy Diagnosed?
The timing of symptoms can be an indication that you are allergic to cats. If you've been around cats and suddenly find yourself sneezing with watery eyes, it's a good bet that you have an allergy. If your symptoms and exposure don't make an obvious correlation, the best way to know for certain is through a medical evaluation.
Following a brief history and examination, your doctor may decide to conduct some tests to determine whether you are allergic to cats. It could be that you are allergic to something different, like dust mites or mold.
The Lab Tests to Screen, Diagnose, and Monitor Cat Allergies
What testing is done for cat allergies? There are two ways to test for any allergy: skin tests and blood tests. These tests offer many benefits, like the information you can use to make important decisions about your health.
Skin Prick Test
The skin prick test is conducted in a doctor's office or lab to monitor the results. The doctor will prick the skin's surface, usually on the forearm or the back, and then place a small amount of allergen on the spot. Typically the doctor will test for several allergens at once and may number the pricks to keep track of allergens.
If a spot turns red or swollen after about 15-20 minutes, you are allergic to that particular substance. The skin will return to normal after about 30 minutes or so.
Intradermal Skin Testing
With intradermal testing, potential allergens are injected under the skin, usually of the forearm. Red, itchy bumps indicate an allergic reaction.
The intradermal test is better at showing a positive result for a potential allergy. However, it can also create more false-positive results for allergies, showing positive results for an allergy that doesn't exist.
For some folks with skin conditions or very young children, a skin test isn't possible. In these cases, your doctor will order a blood test for cat dander allergen-specific antibodies.
IgE (immunoglobulin E) is part of the body's immune system, and a blood test will measure levels of IgE antibodies in the blood. These antibodies are present when an allergic reaction is detected.
Frequently Asked Questions About a Cat Allergy and Lab Testing for a Cat Allergy
Is allergy testing safe?
The short answer is "absolutely." Blood testing is quite routine.
At what age can some someone have allergy testing?
Allergy testing can be done at any age.
Does blood allergy testing hurt?
Other than the mild prick of the needle used to draw your blood, blood testing does not hurt.
Will everyone with a cat allergy need shots?
Allergy injection therapy is not required for everyone with an allergy, but it is the only treatment that produces long-term benefits. The shots change how the immune system handles allergens.
Cat Allergy Testing
Cat allergies can come between you and a loving relationship with a pet. Knowing for sure if you have a cat allergy can help you take charge of your health. Ulta Lab provides cat allergy testing that is highly accurate and reliable.
Ulta Lab tests offer numerous benefits like:
- Secure and confidential results within 24-48 hours of most tests
- No health insurance required
- No physician referral required
- Affordable prices
- 100% satisfaction guaranteed
Get results with Ulta Lab tests today!