ZocdocAnswersWill constant exposure to allergens decrease the negative reaction to them?

Question

Will constant exposure to allergens decrease the negative reaction to them?

I am allergic to cats (when exposed to them I get a runny nose, itchy eyes and throat, and sneeze) , but I am considering living with a girl who owns two of them (both which are short hair cats). I was wondering if being constantly exposed to cats will decrease my allergic reaction to them? If not, do you think taking over the counter allergy medications every day will help?

Answer

Sorry to hear that you have an allergic reaction to cats as they can make wonderful pets and companions. However, this is a very good question. There definitely are situations in which a patient can be exposed over a long period of time to a low dose of an allergen, and it does tend to decrease (or completely abate) the bodies allergic response to that allergen. This is called allergen immunotherapy, or desensitization. Essentially it is like getting an increasingly stronger vaccine against the allergen that someone is allergic to in order to achieve immunologic tolerance. However, this technique is usually done under the close supervision of an allergist to monitor for adverse reactions, so I wouldn't necessarily recommend trying the technique on your own without the guidance of a physician. In your case it sounds like you are suffering from the IgE/histamine mediated type 1 hypersensitivity reaction from exposure to cats. In order to understand allergy well, you must first understand the concept that there are 4 main classes of hypersensitivity reactions (aka allergy): type 1-4. Type 1 as I mentioned is the immediate "allergic" reaction that is mediated by IgE and histamine. The important thing to understand about a type 1 reaction is that it can potentially cause anaphylaxis if the reaction is bad enough. Anaphylaxis is a severe multi-system reaction to an allergen. I don't mean to scare you, but this can become a serious, life threatening, situation (like some people's reactions to bee stings). So I would definitely recommend going to an allergist to discuss your situation. Hope this helps.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.