It's a conundrum that many households face: Should Lady the golden retriever or Cuddles the tortoiseshell cat get an eviction notice when a family member shows signs of an allergy to the pet?

Not necessarily, according to Long Island health experts. In some cases, the family's cat or dog -- or bird or hamster -- may be due for a reprieve. Here's what you need to know:

 

 

1. PET ALLERGIES WORK IN DIFFERENT WAYS

 

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It's not clear why some people develop allergies to pets and things like dust, pollen and mold spores, said Dr. Gary A. Weinstock, an allergist-immunologist and associate attending physician at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset.

However, it is known that pet allergies aren't all the same. "In dogs, the most important allergens are in their dander -- like dandruff -- and their shedding of hair and fur just helps to spread the dander," Weinstock said. "In cats, the most important allergen is concentrated in their saliva, so when they clean and preen themselves, the saliva gets on their fur and the hairs will carry the allergen as they are shed."

Allergy testing is the way to determine exactly what's triggering a possible allergic reaction from a pet, said Dr. Sharon B. Markovics, who's board-certified in allergy and immunology and based in Manhasset. "Some patients believe they have a pet allergy when, in fact, it is the pollen and mold carried into the home on the pet that exposes the pet's owner to those allergens."

 

 

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2. GETTING RID OF THE PET IS THE BEST SOLUTION, BUT . . .

 

Both Weinstock and Markovics said the preferred way to get rid of pet allergies is to get rid of the pet. "The best way to treat any type of allergy has always been to avoid exposure to the problem allergen," Weinstock said. "Medications can reduce and mask symptoms but do not prevent the allergic reactions from occurring."

However, he said that allergy injections can be a "very effective" method in the long-term. Even better, the injections can actually help the body adjust to exposure to allergens, allowing people to tolerate them more easily over time, he said.

 

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3. CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT CAN HELP

 

If you choose to keep a pet when someone is allergic, the animal should be restricted to an uncarpeted room that's not the person's bedroom, Markovics said.

To prevent symptoms, she recommends that the pet be washed regularly and kept off upholstered furniture, which can hold allergens, as much as possible. Vacuums with HEPA filters can help, too. "Combining measures may alleviate symptoms and reduce need for medication," she said.

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Home may not be the only problem locale, however. "It's important to realize that animal allergens are present in schools, offices and public places," Markovics said. "An example is the cat-allergic child returning to school into a classroom with many cat owners. There is a significant risk of an asthma flare."

 

 

4. BE CAREFUL ABOUT 'HYPOALLERGENIC' PETS

 

Some pets, such as the so-called "hairless" cats, have been labeled as hypoallergenic because they produce less dander. But Weinstock cautioned that they can still exacerbate allergies.

"There is no such thing as a completely 'hypoallergenic pet,' " he said. "This is an unscientific old wives' tale/urban legend that can cause great disappointment if allergies subsequently occur. People can have widely varied symptoms from any given individual pet, but there is no way possible to predict whether or when an individual will react to a pet."

 

 

5 NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO PREVENT ALLERGIES IN THE FIRST PLACE

 

"Allergy research has not yet found out how to prevent allergy symptoms from developing from the ubiquitous environmental allergens, including dust, mold spores and pollens," Weinstock said.

One theory, known as the "hygiene hypothesis," suggests that early exposure in life to a variety of allergens through such activities as playing in the dirt may prevent allergies from developing, he said. But other research indicates that it's better to avoid the allergens in the first place.

 

 

ALLERGY & IMMUNOLOGY

 

Dr. Mitchell Boxer

2001 Marcus Ave.

Ste. N220

Lake Success

516-482-0910

Dr. Russell P. Cancellieri

596 Hampton Rd.

Southampton

631-283-3300

Dr. Robert N. Corriel

1129 Northern Blvd.

Ste. 300

Manhasset

516-365-6077

Dr. Bruce L. Edwards

700 Old Country Rd.

Ste. 105

Plainview

516-933-1125

Dr. Luz Fonacier

120 Mineola Blvd.

Ste. 410

Mineola

516-663-2097

Dr. Marianne Frieri

566 Broadway

Massapequa

516-541-6262

Dr. Stanley Goldstein

242 Merrick Rd.

Ste. 401

Rockville Centre

516-536-7336

Dr. Louis E. Guida Jr.

Bay Shore Allergy and

Asthma Specialty Practice

649 Montauk Hwy.

Bay Shore

631-665-2700

Dr. Paul Lang

1 Hollow Lane

Ste. 110

New Hyde Park

516-365-6666

Dr. Paul A. Lusman

120 North Country Rd.

Port Jefferson

631-928-4990

Dr. Sharon B. Markovics

1129 Northern Blvd.

Ste. 300

Manhasset

516-365-6077

Dr. Daniel L. Mayer

263 E. Main St.

Smithtown

631-366-5252

Dr. Brian Novick

30 Newbridge Rd.

Ste. 101

East Meadow

516-731-5740

Dr. Steven Satnick

900 Main St.

Ste. 102

Holbrook

631-588-4486

Dr. Marc Sicklick

123 Grove Ave.

Ste. 110

Cedarhurst

516-569-5550

Dr. Gary A. Weinstock

310 E. Shore Rd.

Ste. 207

Great Neck

516-487-1073

Dr. David Wertheim

Pro-HEALTH Care Associates

2800 Marcus Ave.

Ste. 202

Lake Success

516-608-2898

 

 

How they were picked

 

Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. is a health-care research and information company founded in 1991 by a former medical college, board chairman and president to help guide consumers to America's top doctors and top hospitals. Castle Connolly's established survey and research process, under the direction of a doctor, involves tens of thousands of top doctors and the medical leadership of leading hospitals.

Castle Connolly's physician-led team of researchers follows a rigorous screening process to select top doctors on both the national and regional levels. Its online nominations process -- located at castleconnolly.com/nominations -- is open to all licensed physicians in America who are able to nominate physicians in any medical specialty and in any part of the country, as well as indicate whether the nominated physician is, in their opinion, among the best in their region in their medical specialty or among the best in the nation in their medical specialty.

Careful screening of doctors' educational and professional experience is essential before final selection is made among those physicians most highly regarded by their peers. The result -- Castle Connolly identifies the top doctors in America and provides the consumer with detailed information about their education, training and special expertise in their paperback guides, national and regional magazine "Top Doctors" features and online directories. Doctors do not and cannot pay to be selected and profiled as Castle Connolly Top Doctors. (Newsday is not part of the selection process.)

Physicians selected for inclusion in this "Top Doctors" feature may also appear as Regional Top Doctors online at castleconnolly.com, or in one of Castle Connolly's Top Doctors guides, such as America's Top Doctors® or America's Top Doctors® for Cancer.

 

 

To see the whole list . . .

 

Who else is on the list of Top Doctors? More than 6,000 listings are in the New York Metro Area edition of "Top Doctors," published by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The softcover list price is $34.95. For more information, go to castleconnolly.com, or call 800-399-DOCS.