Q. Can an adult suddenly get a cat allergy? I ask as our family has adopted a calico cat. I started getting a runny nose and a cough when near him, so I went to an allergist for testing. The results were positive to cat allergen. I don’t get it: our family had cats when I was a child. Can you develop a cat allergy as an adult in your forties? Must we give him away?
Dr. 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 for developing cat allergy as an adult. 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.
Treating, Modifying Home for Cat Allergy
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 cat 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.
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Dr. Clifford Bassett, allergist and asthma specialist, is the Medical Director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (Allergyreliefnyc.com; Twitter @allergyreliefny). He is on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and is also the author of The New Allergy Solution: Supercharge Resistance, Slash Medication, Stop Suffering.Note: This column is meant as general guidance and not as diagnosis or treatment of individual patient conditions. For such specific medical advice, please visit an allergist or pulmonologist. Submit a Question View all posts by this medical expert.