Can Cat Allergy Develop in Adult Life?
Q. My teenage daughter brought home (and we’ve adopted) a calico cat. I started getting a runny nose and a cough when near it, so I went to an allergist for testing. The results were positive. I don’t get it: our family had cats when I was a child. Can you develop an allergy to cats in your forties? Must we give him away?
Dr. Clifford Bassett: Yes, although allergies chiefly develop in children, adolescents and young adults, they can manifest during mid-adulthood.
However, the color and gender of your new cat could be to blame. I conducted a small, yet preliminary clinical study that identified a strong correlation of moderate to severe allergy symptoms with darker colored cats in a sensitive population of cat owners.
Additionally, I found that female cats produce less pet allergen than male cats.
Avoidance is the primary treatment, though this is not a popular choice for many pet lovers. Certainly portable HEPA air filtration and/or HEPA pleated filters in a home ventilation system (HVAC) can help to reduce the level of airborne pet allergens. Additionally, an allergist can review your options if you have direct exposure to a home pet. These include environmental modification, medications and of course allergy injections, which serve to increase your tolerance to the cat allergens in your home.