Is There Any Truth To Fears About Hypoallergenic Pets, Feather Pillows, Black Mold?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The trees are green, the flowers are blooming and your allergies are likely flaring up.

Sadly, going inside may not be a relief.

Tens of millions of Americans also have indoor allergies, but as CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Thursday, common myths could be making you more miserable than you need to be.

After undergoing extensive allergy tests, Stephanie Rolfe found out exactly what was making her miserable. Tests showed she was allergic to grass and pollen, but she also suspected she was allergic to certain dogs — which is how she wound up with “Harry.”

“We had to get rid of my other dog and we wanted a smaller dog that didn’t shed and so my dad looked online and picked Harry out,” Rolfe said.

Stephanie said she thought owning a dog that sheds less and has shorter hair would help, but it turns out that hypoallergenic pets are one of the biggest myths in allergies.

“In short, they really don’t exist. It’s really not the hair that causes the problems,” said Dr. Nabeel Farooqui of Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.

Farooqui said dander in pet fur can be an issue, but other proteins cause allergic reactions as well.

“And those are actually found in the saliva and urine of the pets,” Dr. Farooqui said.

So, don’t be surprised if allergies continue to hound you even with a new pet, Dr. Gomez reported.

Another myth is that feather pillows cause allergic reactions. Side-by-side tests with anti-allergen pillows put that myth to rest.

“You actually have a higher content of dust mites, mold and animal dander in the synthetic material than you do in the feathers,” Dr. Farooqui said.

Finally, there is the myth about how lethal black mold can be in your home. Supposedly, it can cause allergic reactions, but rumors have spread faster than the mold itself.

“The more toxic and fatal sort of reactions that we hear about in the news reports really were based on weak evidence and have not been confirmed in testing,” Dr. Farooqui said.

Black mold can aggravate your allergies, but the amount normally found inside of homes has not been proven to be toxic.

The experts advise that you wash and brush your pet often, and use a HEPA air filter in a pet-free zone in your bedroom. Also, clean mold at first sight and use clean, tightly woven pillow covers to provide a barrier between you and mold and dust mites in your pillow, Dr. Gomez reported.

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