Q. I have moved into a house where two cats lived. They are gone, but I am sick all the time with a cough and wheezing and headache, which I never had before. I am 80 years old with pulmonary hypertension, and I moved from an elevation of 6,000 feet to sea level. How long does the hair and dander remain after cats are gone?
A. Your first step should be to consult with an allergist to determine if you are asthmatic. While asthma can develop at any age, if this is the first time you have had wheezing and coughing, your symptoms may not be related asthma. Pulmonary hypertension can also cause respiratory symptoms, especially shortness of breath.
Your allergist can perform a simple in-office allergy test to determine if you are allergic to cats, dust mites, or other common allergens for your geographical region.
In a home that previously had cats, it may take up to 20 to 30 weeks before the cat allergen concentration is reduced to the levels found in animal-free homes. You may be able to speed reduction of the cat allergen by replacing carpet with hard surface flooring, removing any upholstered furniture and drapes used by the former owners, and cleaning the walls. However, all homes, even those never occupied by a cat, will have a minimal level of cat dander that can be measured.
Your allergist should be able to provide medications to help reduce your upper and lower respiratory symptoms for as long as they are needed.