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Cat allergies common

Less contact with cats may benefit more than those who have a specific cat allergy, say scientists.

Research shows that being in the company of cats can cause breathing problems even in people who do not have a specific cat allergy.

"This was an unexpected finding," said lead author, Susan Chinn at the Imperial College of London.

"Our study suggests that all allergic individuals have signs of asthmatic responses if exposed to cat allergen, even if blood tests show they are not allergic to cats."

The scientists analyzed whether 1,884 participants of the European Community Respiratory Health Survey were allergic to house dust mites, cats, mold and grass.

They found that even moderate exposure to cats resulted in significantly enhanced bronchial responses.

The scientists say that avoiding cats could be beneficial to a much wider population than previously estimated, as one in four people had an allergy.

"Based on the current research, it appears that many individuals could benefit from reduced cat ownership and exposure," says Chinn.

Imperial College London

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I will have to have eye surgery because I live with a cat, though I have banished him from my bedroom.  I will not get rid of him because my husband has a chronic health problem and the cat is his constant companion while I am at work. It is a dilemma for me, but I am sure that banishing the cat from my house would mean sending my husband into a deep depression" - Sally Denton, Kentucky

"I would not get rid of my cat if I discovered I had an allergy unless the allergy was so severe that it affected my day-to-day living in a big way. Cats are part of the family and I cannot see cat lovers getting rid of their pets because of a few sneezes and a runny nose. I certainly wouldn't" - Lynda Hawkes, Leicester

"Its hard enough persuading them not to use them as bedwarmers! No chance of complete avoidance" - Jenny Windley, allergy specialist

"It is very difficult to comply to this advice as cats are so valuable especially for a persons mental health. I do not have a cat because of the effect it has on my breathing but would probably get a cat once I finish work" - Name and address supplied

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