Can pet hair cause hives? You may have seen or experienced the more familiar symptoms of a pet allergy like itchy, red eyes, a runny nose, sneezing, and coughing. But what about other symptoms? Could there be a link between pet hair and hives?

We Love Our Pets So Much It Hurts…

In the UK, we love our pets and treat them like family. They live in our homes, eat under our tables, and even sleep in our beds. PSDA estimates that 50% of UK adults own at least one pet, including 9.9 million dogs and 10.9 million cats.

And yet, as many as 30% of us have had an allergic reaction to one of our furry friends. But what you may not realize is that respiratory problems aren’t the only allergic reaction possible. Pet hair can cause a wide range of symptoms, including hives.

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How Can Pet Hair Cause Hives?

Contrary to popular belief, allergies aren’t caused by pet hair or fur. Pet dander is the real culprit behind allergic reactions – whatever form they take.

Pet dander is made up of tiny particles of protein from an animal’s hair, skin, feathers, saliva, or waste. And when that dander makes contact with someone who has an allergy, it can send their body into a frenzy. Rather than merely recognizing it as an unharmful foreign protein, the allergic person’s body assumes that it’s a dangerous pathogen that must be annihilated at all cost.

Histamine is released which causes inflammation and white blood cells to flood the area, seeking to destroy invaders. The problem is that dander isn’t really an invader. It’s more like an unsuspecting visitor who stumbled down the wrong alleyway at the wrong time.

If you’ve got the right allergy, when that pet dander hits your skin, your immune system overreacts. And the histamine your body produces causes blood plasma to leak into your skin, creating raised, red patches of hives. The result is an itching and burning sensation that can last minutes – or days.

So, just as pet hair can cause breathing problems and itchy eyes, it can also cause hives.

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What Can I Do About Pet Hair-Caused Hives?

Depending on the severity of your outbreak, hives caused by pet hair can be treated in a number of different ways, including…

Avoid the Source of Dander. Before you do anything else, avoid the source of dander – even if it’s a beloved pet dog or cat. This doesn’t mean you have to throw it outside or immediately give it away. But until you have your allergy under control it would be a good idea to keep it out of your bedroom and primary living space. You may also want to consider investing in a high-quality air purifier or hair removal brush to keep your living space as clean and dander-free as possible.

Treat It with a Cool Compress. If you’ve noticed a light outbreak of hives due to pet hair, it’s a good idea to treat it first using a cool compress (or ice). This will help lessen the inflammation and make the itching more bearable. It’s also a good idea to avoid anything that’s going to heat the affected area, whether hot water or tight-fitting clothes. This will only worsen any inflamed skin and lead to more itching and discomfort.

Try an Antihistamine. A number of different antihistamines are available over the counter. You may want to try one, but you should know they work best when administered immediately after exposure to the offending dander.

See a Doctor. Some people can manage their pet hair allergies, including hives, with nothing more than a little inconvenience here and there. However, others may struggle. If your allergy is severe or seems to be getting worse, it’s a good idea to see your family doctor.

You should also be aware that even if you’ve never had an allergy to your pet before, one can develop overnight. If you’ve noticed that you develop hives after playing with your dog or cat, don’t take a chance on letting it get out of hand. Ask your doctor if you can be tested so you can be 100% sure.