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Asthma/Severe asthma caused by cats


I live in a small town near Lake Erie in Ohio.  We have three small dogs, none of which I am allergic to (I am allergic to short hair dogs; mine are all long haired).  
I take Advair 500/50, Singulair, and Xyzal and Nasonex for my allergies, which are primarily to mold and dust.  I also have two rescue inhalers, one Proventil and one Combivent.  I also have seasonal allergies.
I have a friend who has six housecats, all of which are allowed full access to the house and garage.  Other than her getting rid of the cats (which cause me to go into SEVERE asthma reaction-ER and deadly), is there anything I can do, such as wearing some type of filtering respirator, a powered air purifying respirator, or such in order to stop an attack?  Some other type of mask or device?  I appreciate your advice, thank you.

Hi Piper!
  Cat dander is nasty! To give you an idea, if you moved into a home that had a dog, and you reacted to it, after a thorough cleaning, in about a month, you would be doing better. With cats...make that a YEAR! By the way, it is not the hair that is the issue, it is the dander shed from the skin (dead skin cells). That (ahem) is the long and the short of it.  :-)
  In regards to your situation, aside from allergy shots (twice weekly for a minimum of six months, but up to 5 years)not a heck of a lot to do, since the dander will also end up on your skin and clothes. Not to get personal, but, a looong time ago I dated a girl highly allergic to my dog. To go out, my clothes were kept in the bag from the dry cleaners, and the other clothing accessories grabbed right out of the dryer, and put on just outside the door in my house to the garage, where the floor was not carpeted. If I had to take my dog anywhere, the interior needed a full cleaning. The girl could NEVER come over to my place. Need I say, a short relationship!
  What may help would be to see if you got a better response from a different inhalation medication combo. Instead of Advair, trying Symbicort or Dulera. Genetics play a role in treatment response, and this would also apply to your Nasonex nasal spray. In fact, Nasonex and Dulera have the same steroid in them: mometasone. So if your nasal spray gives you excellent results, it may be worth trying Dulera. On the other hand, if your nasal spray isn't so great for you, then trying Symbicort for inhalation, and Rhinocort Aqua for nasal spray. They both contain budesonide as the steroid agent.
  Two other meds may be of some value: 1) Vitamin D (ergocalciferol) 50,000 units once a week, if a blood test shows you with low levels. I've have definitely seen positive results in appropriate patients, and 2)theophylline, which is occasionally used as an add-on to all the other meds you have. It helps relax the airways through a different mode of action, but, I don't think it would be of benefit for you.
  Finally, I have a concern regarding the use of both Proventil and Combivent. Do you find limited benefit from Proventil as compared to Combivent? Back to genetics: some people have a gene variation where they do not respond to the class of drugs that Proventil is part of, but have great response to a different treatment class. Combivent is a mix of BOTH classes. Emergency room protocol is to use the combo, since, during a severe situation, you don't have the time to evaluate the patients genetics. If what I feel may be the case with you, the single second agent in Combivent, ipratropine, is the active ingredient in Atrovent-HFA inhaler for rescue use.
  As a side note, I hope you ALWAYS carry your rescue inhaler with you, as well as epinephrine injections...just in case.
 Please get back to me in regards to you rescue meds, and also, if your doctor is willing to try alternative steroid meds in your treatment.

 Hope this helps, and please, get back to me regarding the above issues, or any other questions you have.




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Marc Rubin, RPh Asthma Educator


I have worked directly with patients as well as caregivers for over 30 years. Have made presentations throughout Illinois educating school nurses as well as the teaching and coaching staff of public schools about asthma, and how they should respond to these students needs. Presented a public education program on asthma through the US Department of Public Health. Specialize in helping guide asthmatic patients to take control of their disease in order to live a near-normal, fully active life.


Practicing pharmacist for 40 years, specializing in asthma and COPD for 12 years. Developed nationwide education to nurses, teachers and athletic coaches regarding asthma and exercise induced bronchospasm. In addition, and closer to home. my daughter has asthma, and my son has exercise induced bronchospasm. In addition, I serve on the boards and committees of a number of asthma organizations: Sports, Exercise and Fitness Committee of AAAAI, Population Health Committee and Sports Medicine Committee of ACAAI, Sports Medicine Committee of the World Allergy Association. Board of Directors of the Chicago Asthma Consortium, Board of Directors of the Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation, as well as the advisory board of a medical education company, Emmi Solutions. Directly involved in the creation of public education programs for asthma, COPD and diabetes.

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology / Sports Medicine Committee, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology / Population Health Committee and Sports Medicine, American College of Chest Physicians, American Thoracic Society. World Allergy Association, Chicago Asthma Consortium / Professional Development Committee, Christopher D. Redding Youth Asthma Foundation, and Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago: Development Committee for AE-C prep class, and presenter.

AAAAI PowerPoint on the new guidelines for EIB (Exercise Induced Bronchospasm), AAAAI Powerpoint on Asthma in School Setting for Teachers and Coaches, Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Transition guide for teens with food allergies or asthma going out of the home to live independantly.

BScPharm, RPh, (NAECB Certified asthma educator in 2002), NIPCO Certified Respiratory Care Pharmacist

Past/Present Clients
Emmi Solutions, Chicago Next Level Health, Chicago

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