Why is my boyfriend's cat allergy worse in areas where the cat is not allowed?
July 12, 2012 8:58 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's allergic to my cat, but it's worse in my room and bathroom where she is not allowed.

I just moved from a studio apartment to a two bedroom apartment. In my studio, my boyfriend had a really hard time with the cat because we couldn't prevent her from being on the bed since there were no doors, and the only spot for the litter box was in the bathroom. For him, the bathroom was the worst.

Now, I live in a two bedroom apartment and my room is the master bedroom so the bathroom and bedroom are attached. The cat isn't allowed in the room at all, and the litter box is in the back hallway. I thought this would make his allergies better, but for some reason, it's not helping. He is even starting to wheeze (before is was just itching and red eyes) when he's in my bathroom, and the bedroom isn't good either. The living area, where the cat hangs out is much better for his allergies.

This is confusing to me, and I'm wondering if anyone has any ideas as to why this might be the case. All of my bedding and towels from the old apartment have been washed. What could it be? Why the bathroom in particular?

posted by RUPure to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What about the mattress itself? You say the bedding has been washed but does that include the mattress/box springs? I'm no expert in cleaning but I am a allergic, cat-induced wheezer and that'd be the first place I'd look based upon what you've said here.

How about the ventilation system? Is the filter for the HVAC/furnace system not up to snuff or not as good in your new place as the old one?

Lastly, is he allergic to dust? Cats are the worst for me but dust can also fire up my wheeze level just as bad, so maybe there's something that didn't get cleaned before move-in that you're missing?
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:02 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

A standalone cat allergy is unusual. My guess is that he's allergic to other things, too (examples: dust, your fabric softener, the pollen from whatever trees are outside your bedroom window, etc).

It may not be just the cat.
posted by phunniemee at 9:04 AM on July 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

Does he have any other allergies? Possibly to mold or mildew? It may be that something in there that has nothing to do with your cat is causing him to have a reaction. Take a look around by the baseboards, maybe try to pull up a little corner of linoleum or something (that may not be good advice, but it's what I would do) near the shower/tub/sink.

Also check under the sink, which is a prime spot for mold and mildew to accumulate.
posted by Urban Winter at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Two theories:

- Your bathroom is not ventilated nearly as well as your living room. Have you tried just putting a small fan in there to see if it helps at all?

- There's something else in the bathroom (mold) that your bf is allergic to.
posted by mkultra at 9:05 AM on July 12, 2012

He is allergic to your cat's dander, and your cat's dander gets on you, and then you go into the bathroom and bedroom a lot. Try ventilating those rooms as well as possible (fans, open windows, etc.).
posted by Rock Steady at 9:07 AM on July 12, 2012

My partner is majorly allergic to cats and I had a cat that I ultimately had to find a new home for when we decided to move in together. (absolute hardest decision I have had to make.) Simply bringing my belongings over to our new house got his allergies going because they were so saturated in dander. EVERYTHING had to be washed. Quilts and blankets that my cat would frequently be on had to be washed multiple times before he stopped having a reaction to them. We are sleeping on his mediocre 500$ mattress and my super amazing 2000$ mattress is currently langushing in my parents' spare bedroom because, even a year later, it is still too full of cat dander and it still sets him off.

So yeah, I'm guessing the culprit in the bedroom is the mattress/pillows/blankets/etc. Anything that can hold allergens like that won't be made any less allergy-y by moving.

as for the bathroom, agree with above - check for mold and mildew and other possible culprits. Get a dehumidifier and keep it running in the bathroom with the doors closed for a couple of days and then see how his allergies do.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:15 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Soaps and shampoos and perfumes do it to me. And they tend to hang out in the bathroom and bedroom. It may not be your cat.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:22 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can buy allergy encasements for pillows and beds; lots of folk are allergic to dust mites that live in beds anyhow, so even if it isn't the cat dander on the bed it might help.
And yes, all of the bedding should get washed/replaced, and the bathroom checked for other possible allergens.

Otherwise I second the above advice, and add to it that OTC allergy meds are available in several flavors (if he doesn't like one or finds it ineffective, try another!)
posted by nat at 9:27 AM on July 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

Speaking as a person with bad cat allergies who loves cats- carpet needs frequent vacuuming and bedding and clothes should be washed often. Also, OTC allergy meds and a HEPA air filter for your bedroom will help. For the bathroom, try a dehumidifier, fan, open window- something to improve the air circulation or humidity.

Also, if you can spare 5 minutes here and there, brushing the cat occasionally will make it shed much less cat fur and cat dander everywhere. I recommend the furminator brushes.
posted by Aliera at 10:24 AM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

what sort of heating system does your place have? if it has central heating and a/c, and the intake duct is anywhere near where the litterbox is, or where your cat hangs out, then all that dander may be getting pulled through the system, and then blown all over the house, collecting especially in the rooms where you keep the door closed, like the bathroom and bedroom. If that is the case, can an air filer be added to the duct system?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:46 AM on July 12, 2012

Do you have carpet in the bedroom? It may need cleaned. Are your mattress and pellows enclosed in a hypoallergenic mattress bag such as the Allergy Armor Ultra Allergy Relief Bedding? Do you have a HEPA filter in your bedroom? Have you bathed the cat? Brushing outside once a week, and regular monthly grooming at the pet shop may help. Do you use a HEPA filter vacuum?

You might consider if your landlord is pet-friendly, that your boyfriend is not reacting so much to your cat as to previous animals that were allowed in the master bed/bath.

You could re-paint the walls, or at least scrub the place top to bottom. Do you like the place well enough to tell the landlord you'll pay for pulling up the carpet and installing new/hardwood? At minimum, have the carpets cleaned thoroughly and use something like Allersearch allergen wash. I've been told steamers like the Shark are better for people with allergies. Having washable coverings on couches and chairs that are cleaned weekly helps.

Try the ideas in this AskMe post.

I would try the shotgun approach and do as much listed above as you possibly can. Pretty sure you can make a big difference with it. If you can afford it, this might be the reason and time to hire a housekeeper once a week. ;)
posted by BlueHorse at 2:32 PM on July 12, 2012

It's not the car itself that we are all allergic to generally, it is the hair, dust and dander that comes off the cat onto furniture, clothes and bedding. All of that stuff needs to be cleaned.

So all the stuff that the cat lived near at the old place is still going to be a problem at the new place.

And also, yeah, there is probably something in the new place too that is making things worse. I've found that usually one allergen is tolerable, but if you add a couple together, trouble starts happening.
posted by gjc at 5:39 PM on July 12, 2012

Best answer: If your boyfriend is having a whole lot of allergic reactions right now, and has been for a few weeks, his body is probably kicking out enough histamine that he's going to be having a full-blown reaction to every possible allergen he comes in contact with. I'd put him on an antihistamine (watch out for the drowsiness) every day, round the clock, for at least two weeks and see if the symptoms go away. If there IS a big change, then wean off the antihistamine over another week or two and see if his own immune system has settled down and adjusted adequately to the cat's presence in the main part of your apartment, etc. My guess is he's reacting to dander and dust and pollens and molds and possibly even sunlight right now and he needs a chance to build up his own immune system without it being under constant assault.

If none of these things work, I think he should have a medical workup.
posted by aryma at 7:54 PM on July 12, 2012

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