Help for cat-induced asthma?
August 6, 2009 2:33 PM   Subscribe

The cat allergy question has been asked before, and I do have the standard itchy eyes, stuffed nose, sneezing, etc. However, I'd specifically like suggestions regarding cat-induced asthma. Mine is severe enough that, although I haven't done it for years, spending 24 hours in a house with cats has put me in the emergency room and on a nebulizer. One person in that previous thread mentioned that Claritin helped. Has anyone else had experience with something that helped not just their cat allergies but the cat-induced asthma as well?
posted by SampleSize to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Over a long time, allergy shots can help.
posted by dilettante at 2:46 PM on August 6, 2009

Best answer: your cat induced asthma is being caused by your allergies. more specifically, your asthma is a reaction to your allergies and your allergies are a reaction to the cats. treat the allergies and the asthma won't rear its ugly head.

claritin works great for me, but only if i've taken it a few days in a row before it's time for cats.
posted by nadawi at 2:48 PM on August 6, 2009

In my asthma ALL allergies trigger my asthma, so the trick in reducing allergen induced asthma is to reduce the impact of the allergen itself.

For this case, perhaps you should talk to your doctor about a medicine called Singulair. The medicine did not work for me* but it may for you. The medicine is prescribed as an asthma-preventative medicine, but it has also been used as an allergy medicine. In your case of exposure to cats, perhaps Singulair would work double-duty, both reducing the allergies you have AND fighting off the asthma that the remaining allergies would fire off.

Good luck!

*(It did help my asthma and allergies but I had horrible leg cramping in the night and mood shifts...neither were listed on Singulair's "common side effects" sheet but a Google showed me I'm not alone with those)
posted by arniec at 2:48 PM on August 6, 2009

Claritin helps me with my cat-induced asthma, and I second that it works best if you've started taking it beforehand and you've built up a level of it in your system. One other thing, keep taking it the day after you're around cats. While you're in their presence, you're silently building up some level of dandur on your skin, in your lungs, etc. If your body runs out of Claritin before its rid itself of the dandur, it can still react. This is probably only a potential issue if you stay around them for 24 hours or more at a stretch though.
posted by TungstenChef at 3:00 PM on August 6, 2009

I get this from a very small set of cats, not even close to all cats. Not mine, for example.

But once a year or so I get a surprise in someone's house. I can last an hour or two. If I try to stay longer than that, my lungs start to hurt. It's the only thing I get an asthma-like reaction to, in fact. No plants or molds or anything else has any impact on me. I can run up stairs in April. But some cats are made of kryptonite, I swear.

Claritin (real Claritin, sometimes called Claritin-D, the one with ephedrine) works for me if I take it as soon as I notice symptoms (short breath, a wheeze), but the window of opportunity is small. If I hang around an extra 15 mins to make small talk and look for a nice excuse to duck out to the drug store, I'm screwed, and it takes a good 24 hours of non-cat air to get me back to normal.

Loratadine (the non-ephedrine part of Claritin) is also useful on its own, but only prophylactically, so if I know I'll be in a house with cats an hour from now, I take 20mgs of that in advance and I'm fine for an evening, or even a sleepover. If I have to stay for many days somewhere with problem cats, I need to take 10mg every 8 hours or so, indefinitely.

I tried Cetirizine (Reactine) once but it didn't work at all for me. I haven't tried anything else, since the problem comes up so rarely and loratadine in advance or Claritin (D) onsite work well enough.
posted by rokusan at 3:03 PM on August 6, 2009

Rokusan - Claritin is a different product than Claritin D. Claritin is just loratadine.
posted by nadawi at 3:07 PM on August 6, 2009

I'm allergic to cats as well, and yet I have 3 of them. For some reason only one of them makes me wheeze. I'm not sure what it is about him, but wouldn't you know it, he's the one who likes to sit on my chest when I'm in bed reading and bury his face in my neck. If I let him do it for more than a minute, I'll get hives too. Lovely.

Nthing it's your allergies causing the asthma attacks. Technically, you have "reactive airways". If Claritin works for you, great. For me it does absolutely nothing. I might as well be popping Tic Tacs. Zirtek (which is OTC now) works well, but it makes me incredibly sleepy. Even if I take it at night, I can't get out of bed the following morning. Allegra (Rx only) doesn't work quite as well for me, but at least I can stay awake while taking it. Xyzal (Rx only) is the new and improved version if Zirtek, minus the sleepy. Unfortunately my insurance won't pay for it. Arrrgh!

Singulair is one of those meds that either works wonders or does nothing at all. You need to take it for about 2 weeks straight before you'll see any benefit, but if it works it's AWESOME! I didn't notice enough of a difference to justify paying $100+ a month for the prescription, but again YMMV.

Allergy shots are another possibility, but that route takes years. Unless you want to wear a surgical mask and wash your hands every 10 minutes, your only options are meds or avoiding cats altogether. Which is a shame. Cats ROCK!
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 4:04 PM on August 6, 2009

For me, Claritin, allergy shots, albuterol and an unfortunate mis-communication with the groomer* have pretty much eliminated my cat-induced asthma.

*Lion Cut: Before. After.

(Sorry, Nosy.)
posted by Space Kitty at 4:28 PM on August 6, 2009

I did the Singulair-Advair combination for years for my seasonal and environmental allergies, including cats. Then, I did allergy shots for about 2 years. It has been incredible. I highly recommend allergy shots. Very worthwhile!
posted by FergieBelle at 5:05 PM on August 6, 2009

I'm highly allergic to cats and have had a couple of cat induced asthma attacks where I could not breathe and needed an inhaler. That was mostly in environments that had not been recently cleaned/vacuumed. Zyrtec, an albuterol inhaler, and lots of Vicks Vaporub helped me through an entire weekend in a house of 7 cats, and I was (relatively) comfortable. The allergy shots sound really intriguing though.
posted by katemcd at 5:53 PM on August 6, 2009

I found Zyrtec worked slightly better for me than Clairitin - it's OTC so you can try both. Clairitin made me sleepy on occasion and didn't work as well for me with cats. All anti-allergy drugs are anti-histamines, and their effectiveness and side-effects vary from person-to-person.

Just so you know where I'm coming from - I'm mostly just allergic to cats, but if I spend enough time around them my asthma will flare up (nothing the inhaler can't handle though). Lately I've been working in an office with cats and one Zyrtec in the morning keeps me feeling perfectly normal for the rest of the day - your mileage may definitely vary.
posted by agentmunroe at 6:29 PM on August 6, 2009

Best answer: Rokusan - Claritin is a different product than Claritin D. Claritin is just loratadine.

Careful: it depends where you shop. On-the-shelf drugstore Claritin in Canada, for example, is loratadine + pseudoephedrine, and there is no loratadine-only version, unless you buy generic. I buy Claritin every time I'm in Canada for this reason. Much cheaper, too.

In the USA since ?1995, that's called "Claritin D" and the regular "Claritin" is just loratadine. You can make loratadine into real Claritin by adding ephedrine.

The same mess applies to cough/cold remedies. In general, the USA is way more afraid of grandma making meth than Canada is.

But, yeah, that is what I tried to explain, probably poorly. Anyway, to rephrase my experience in trademark-free language: a jolt of ephedrine will save me as a last-minute fix, while prophylactic loratadine works in advance.
posted by rokusan at 12:18 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

My son has the exact same horrible problem (severe asthma results with several hospitalizations). However, at the advice of his doctor, we have now hit on a procedure that has helped very much:
[at least] Four days in advance of visit in house with cats, start regimen of claritin AND singulair daily. I can't remember the milligrams, but obviously, this may vary for you. The last two visits we have had, he barely even needed his inhalor. I won't say he was without symptoms at all (the ones he had were hardly inhibiting and manageable), but this was a dramatic improvement, so I would vouch for this treatment. Just remember to start in advance!
posted by Eicats at 7:07 AM on August 7, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! This gives me enough hope that it seems worthwhile to make an appointment with an allergist. It's particularly helpful to know that the allergic reaction is the source of the asthma. It's a lot less daunting to think that if I can figure out a good treatment for the allergies, the asthma becomes much less of an issue.
posted by SampleSize at 8:38 AM on August 7, 2009

rokusan: "Careful: it depends where you shop. On-the-shelf drugstore Claritin in Canada, for example, is loratadine + pseudoephedrine, and there is no loratadine-only version, unless you buy generic. I buy Claritin every time I'm in Canada for this reason. Much cheaper, too."

Thanks for the info. I can't take pseudoephedrine... it does crazy things to my heart. Who knew? I take loratadine only.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:32 AM on August 8, 2009

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