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An estimated 6 million Americans are allergic to cats and approximately one third of them have cats in their homes. Allergic reactions to cats can range from inflammation of the nose and eyes to asthma attacks. Although the most effective treatment is removal of the pet, recent scientific studies have shown that steps can be taken in homes with cats to significantly decrease one's exposure to cat allergen.
Cat allergen is not actually cat hair, but a protein present in the dander and saliva of cats. The allergens become airborne as microscopic particles which, when inhaled into the nose or lungs, can produce allergic symptoms. Cat allergen is particularly sticky and is carried on clothing.
In a household with a cat, it is almost impossible not to be exposed to some level of cat allergen, which may or may not be enough to trigger allergy symptoms. Of course, the levels of exposure will be much higher where cats are present, and these levels are more likely to cause an allergy attack.
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