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Air Purifiers for Pet Parents: An Ultimate Guide

Air Purifiers for Pet Parents: An Ultimate Guide

Whether it’s a dog, a cat, a bird, a hamster, or any other type of animal companion, you love your four-legged family or two-winged family member. While there are no doubt endless benefits that come along with pet parenthood, like slobbery kisses, laughs, snuggles, unconditional love, and just sheer joy, there are some downsides that come along with your furry friend; namely, allergies. The fur, dander, and saliva can trigger itchy, watery eyes, seemingly endless bouts of sneezing, skin irritations, and even wheezing.

Yes, pet ownership can be particularly hard for allergy sufferers. If you, a loved one, or visitors are plagued with allergies, being exposed to those critters can be downright troublesome. Dander is the main cause of animal-related allergy attacks, and all furry and feathered friends create it. Put simply, dander is an animals dead skin cells. Skin lies underneath all of that fur and feathers, and just like humans, animals constantly regenerate their skin. As dead skin cells dry out, the sloth off, and circulate throughout the air. Dander attracts dust mites, and the two combined can cause spark allergic reactions. While most people aren’t allergic to animal hair or feathers, they can exacerbate the allergic reactions sparked by dander and dust mites.

If you have a furry or feathered friend, keeping up on the cleaning is a must; however, it may not be enough to keep allergies at bay. In order to better remedy the problem, you might be thinking about investing in an air purifier. Before you do, though, you probably have a few questions; for example, air purifiers actually able to remove pet dander, and if so, what type of air purifier will best meet the needs of my home?  To find the answers to these questions and more – and additional information about pet allergies and air purifiers – keep on reading.

Pet allergies: What are they and how do they work?

Allergic reactions to any type of allergen occur when someone is exposed to a foreign substance that their immune system views as a threat. The immune system responds to that threat and steps into action to protect the individual by generating substances known as antibodies. When the individual comes into contact with that allergen, the production of the antibodies that the immune system makes can cause a number of symptoms, such as inflammation of the airways, nasal passageways, digestive tract, and skin. There are several types of allergens, such as insects, like bee, hornet, or wasp venom, foods, like nuts, eggs, and shellfish, pollen, and dust.

In the case of individuals who experience allergic reactions that trigger their immune system to go into hyper-drive and ramp up the production of antibodies when they are exposed to animals, the allergens that are sparking the reactions they experience are released by the animals. There are several different types of substances that pets release that can cause allergic reactions. These substances can include:

  • Dander. As mentioned, animals produce dander. The skin underneath their coats of fur or feathers is constantly regenerating, and as the old skin sloths off, it escapes into the air. These flecks of skin are very small in size (about 2.5 microns), are very lightweight, and can easily float throughout the air. They can remain airborne for hours, and as they circulate through the air, can be inhaled; however, as pet dander lands, it can accumulate on and within several surfaces, including shelves, carpeting, furniture, bedding, and even clothing. Dander contains proteins that are secreted by the oil glands, and it is those proteins that are responsible for the allergic reactions that are associated with pet dander.
  • Pet saliva and waste. Another common pet-related allergen is saliva and waste, such as urine and fecal matter. Animal saliva and waste contains proteins that are known to cause allergic reactions. Therefore, those slobbery dog kisses, petting a cat after she has cleaned herself (and released proteins from her saliva onto her fur), or cleaning up accidents, “pooper-scooping” when cleaning up after a dog, or cleaning a cat litter box can cause allergic reactions.
  • Hair. While it’s very rare for animal hair and feathers to trigger allergic reactions, hair and feathers do trap microscopic particles of dander. Pet hair and feathers can also collect other substances that can spark allergies, such as animal saliva or urine. As such, exposure to pet hair and feathers can spark allergic reactions.

Dog and Cat Allergies: Is There a Difference?

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that as much as 30 percent of Americans suffers from pet allergies of some kind. Of those individuals, feline allergies are twice as common as canine allergies. The reason for this isn’t clear, however, it could be because cats groom themselves more frequently than dogs, and as such, individuals are exposed to the proteins in cat saliva more than they’re exposed to proteins in dog saliva. Additionally, cats and dogs generate different types of proteins that spark allergic reactions, which could be the cause of the higher incidence of cat allergies.

If you or someone you love experiences allergy-like symptoms when exposed to pets, an allergist can perform testing to determine which allergens you or they are reacting to. What’s important to understand about pet allergens is that they are transmitted through the environment on extremely small particles. Those particles are very lightweight and can float through the air for several hours. As such, exposure to pet-related allergens largely occurs as a result of inhalation.

Can Air Purifiers Eliminate Pet Dander?

If you have pets and suffer from allergies – or anyone in your home does – there’s no doubt that you’re looking for a way to combat the problem. You might be thinking that giving up your furry or feathered friend is the only solution, but rest assured that it isn’t. Keeping up on cleaning, combined with an air purifier, may be able to alleviate the issue. Certain types of air purifiers can effective remove particles from the air that contain pet allergens; however, it’s important to note that not all air purifiers will be able to do the job. In order to see a noticeable difference, you need to use the right type of air purifier.

There are several different types of air purifiers on the market. Below, we examine some of the kinds of technologies that may be able to minimize pet-related allergens.

HEPA Filtration

Air purifiers that are outfitted with HEPA filters are designed to remove up to 99.97 percent of airborne particles that are as small as 0.3 microns in size. As such, an air filter that is equipped with HEPA filtration may be able to trap some of the larger-sized airborne particles that contain animal-related allergens, such as dust that contains pet dander, as well as strands of animal hair. When it comes to smaller animal-related airborne allergens, however, an air purifier with HEPA filtration may not be effective. Remember that the proteins that animal dander contains are largely responsible for pet-related allergies, and pet dander is exceptionally small; about 2.5 microns in size. As such, those smaller particles that are causing pet-related allergic reactions may pass through a HEPA filter and could end up blowing back into the air.

An air purifier that features a HEPA filter may be able to remove pieces of animal hair or flakes of skin cells. In order to ensure the best results possible, it does need to be changed frequently to as to prevent the allergens from being released back into the air.

Ionizers

Air purifiers that are equipped with ionizing technology generate an electrical charge, and it is this charge that aims to trap airborne particles, like pet allergens. When the allergy causing particles that pets release flow through an ionizing air purifier, the charge particles are passed onto the particles, and they then stick to surfaces that are within close proximity to the air purifier, such as walls, floors, and furnishings. There are two types of ionizer air purifiers: fan-less and fan-based. If your goal is to minimize pet allergens, in order to achieve the best results with an ionizer, you’re going to want to use a fan-based model. The fan helps to speed up the rate and the amount of air through the air purifier, and along with that air, pet allergens. Fan-less ionizers rely on air currents, and as such, they are unlikely to yield the results you are looking to achieve.

Fan-based ionizers may be able to help minimize some degree of pet-causing allergens, however, it’s important to note that you will need to regularly clean the surfaces that are within close proximity to the device to remove the electrically charged particles, but cleaning can disturb those allergens and release them back into the air, rendering very minimal effects. Furthermore, ionizers can produce, which is known to be a harmful air pollutant.

Activated Carbon Air Filters

Air purifiers that contain activated carbon filters can only remove certain kinds of gaseous pollutants from the air. They are unable to remove particles, including the allergen-causing particles that pets emit, which means that this type of air purifier would be an ineffective way to remove pet dander and pet hair. But, an activated carbon air purifier reduces pet odors, so it can help to make your home smell fresher.

PECO

Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) air purifiers may be the most effective at reducing pet allergens. PECO is an advanced form of air purification technology. These devices are outfitted with two phases of filtration. The first stage prevents large airborne particles, such pet hair and dander, from passing through the filter. In the second stage, miniscule pet allergens are not only captured, but they are destroyed. This is important, as the large majority of pet allergens, the proteins that are found in pet dander and saliva that cause the immune system to go into over-drive and produce antibodies and cause inflammation, are so tiny that the aforementioned types of air purifying technologies are unable to trap them. Air purifiers that are outfitted with PECO filtration, however, can trap those miniscule particles, and thus, can significantly reduce pet-related allergens.

Additional Pet-Related Allergen Reduction Tips

While air purifiers can certainly help to minimize the risk of pet-related allergies, particularly those that are outfitted with PECO technology, if you really want to combat pet allergies, there are several other strategies that you can use. When used in combination with a high-quality air purifier – especially if the air purifier is used correctly – you and your loved ones (including four-legged or two-winged family members) can live together with minimal issue.

Bathing

Regularly bathing pets, particularly pooches, may help to minimize the amount of dander that your furry friend gives off. Use a specially formulated shampoo that is designed to cut back on dander to achieve the best results.

A Healthy Diet

There is evidence that suggests that feeding a pet a healthy diet can help to reduce dander production. This includes eating highly nutritional food that is packed with the vitamins and minerals that animals need most, as well as making sure that their water dish is always filled with filtered water (avoid tap water, as most municipal water supplies contain harsh and even toxic chemicals, such as fluoride and chlorine, which can pose a number of adverse health effects, including dry, flaky skin).

Keep Up with Housekeeping

Another must when you’re trying to keep the amount of pet-related allergens in your home to a minimum is making sure that you keep up with housekeeping. Dust surfaces with a damp, clean cloth, including table and countertops, blinds, the tops of doors and windows, windowsills, light fixtures, and other surfaces throughout your house. The dampness of the cloth will trap airborne particles, including dander, preventing them from circulating in the air. Cleaning your floors and furnishings on a regular basis is very important, too. Sweep and mop hard floors, such as wood and tile, and vacuum carpets and rugs with a vacuum cleaner that features HEPA filtration.

Maintain Your HVAC System

Make sure that you maintain the filters in your homes heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. Changing out the filters as needed is vital, as doing so will ensure that your HVAC system isn’t emitting the airborne particles that it has trapped, including pet dander and pet hair, back into your home’s air. Regularly changing the filters will not only help to keep allergens down, but will also improve the function of your heating and cooling system.

Schedule Regular Mold Inspections

When speaking about pet allergen removal, the topic of mold may sound strange, but it’s actually directly related and very important. Mold is another common allergen, and pets can increase the risk of indoor mold growth. Accidents, especially on carpeting and rugs, create moist environments, and mold thrives in such conditions. With that said, however, indoor mold growth isn’t always apparent. By having your home tested for mold by a reputable professional, you can detect and address mold growth, thereby further improving your home’s indoor air quality. The professionals at Mold Inspection and Testing, one of the most trusted mold testing companies in the country, utilize the most advanced tools, state-of-the-art technologies, and proven techniques and strategies to identify surface and airborne mold, and if mold is detected, will make recommendations that you can use to eliminate it.

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