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Animal Allergies


I am a 38 year old female and I have never had any problems with allergies. Recently, I started doing volunteer work at an Animal Shelter which houses close to 100 cats and 20 dogs. I do not notice many symptoms when I am actually at the shelter but for days afterwards, I have various "allergy-like" symptoms that come and go and are particularily bad at night. These symptoms include runny nose, sore throat, and headache ( I think sinus).

I am a nurse and I have some familiarity with over the counter allergy medication. Neither Sudafed nor Benadryl provide much relief.

I have all sorts of potential "allergy producing" items in my home and bed including two cats who like to sleep with me and feather pillows but as I say until starting at the shelter.......I have NEVER had these problems. My children (9 & 6) also spend some time at the shelter and appear to be developing the same problems.

This has been going on for over a month and I am about ready to give up my volunteer work at the Shelter so that I do not spend all weekend every weekend coughing and taking Benadryl.

Is it possible that this exposure to extra allergens has set off allergies at this stage in my life? Is it drastic to quite my work at the Shelter. I do NOT want to go through extensive and expensive allergy tests. Any ideas?

Thank you for your time.


Dear Susan,

Thanks for asking about possible allergic reactions to pets in the workplace.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to see an Allergy Specialist in order to get an accurate diagnosis. It is impossible to guess exactly what the most important allergens are in each patient's case. You may not be allergic to animals.

It is rare that a patient with allergies needs to give up their occupation due to cat or dog allergy. So, Susan, there is hope that by identifying the exact cause of your symptoms by undergoing diagnostic allergy skin testing, you may well experience fewer allergy symptoms while keeping both your pets and your job at the pet shelter.

Good luck.

Steve Kagen, M.D.