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Black Cats Cause More Than Bad Luck

     

      Brooklyn, NY - If a black cat crosses your path this Halloween, you are likely to experience more than a bit of bad luck. There''s a good chance you will sneeze, wheeze, scratch and even break out in a rash.

      Even if you''re not superstitious, the fact is -- black cats are likely to spark an allergic reaction, more likely than their white counterparts. That''s the conclusion of a new study to be published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, conducted by physicians in the Department of Allergy and Immunization at Long Island College Hospital (LICH), Brooklyn, NY. Allergy specialist found that patients who owned cats with dark colored hair were two to four times more likely to have an allergic reaction than those who owned cats with light-colored hair were.

      For the study, doctors compared 321 patients with severe, moderate or mild allergic rhinitis, and those with no allergies. Of those, 8 percent reported severe symptoms, 25 percent moderate symptoms, 38 percent mild symptoms and 29 percent no symptoms. "Patients were interviewed to find out their exposure to cats based on the color of the pet, whether it was allowed in the bedroom and the animal''s gender. The aim of the study -- a first of it''s kind -- was to establish the correlation between the color of cat hair and the assessment of the severity of symptoms in patients with allergic rhinitis," says Shahzad Hussain, M.D., lead author of the study.

      Owners who had their cats in their bedrooms were no more likely to have an allergy than those who did not. The gender of the cat also made no difference to symptoms. But the color of the cats had a significant impact on symptoms. Patients with dark colored cats were significantly more likely to report severe or moderate symptoms compared with those patients with no cats or with light-colored cats. Patients with dark colored cats were two to four times more likely to report severe or moderate symptoms. Patients with dark-colored cats in the bedroom were 19.5 times more likely to experience moderate or severe symptoms vs. moderate or no symptoms for patients without cats. Further, patients whose dark-colored cats were not allowed in the bedroom, had no significant risk of symptoms.

      Why dark colored cats should cause an allergic reaction is unclear. However, physicians at LICH suspect that the underlying mechanism involves specific antibodies against what is called fel d 1 - the major cat allergen. In homes with cats, fel d 1 is abundant in dust and air. Physicians at LICH will be conducting further studies to see if dark colored cats have more fel d 1 antigen in their hair than do white cats.

      Since 1958, LICH has served the residents of Brooklyn and the wider metropolitan area. Today, LICH combines the best features of a major medical center, through teaching and research, with the personal approach of a community-centered hospital. As a primary teaching affiliate of the SUNY Health Science Center at Brooklyn, Long Island College Hospital offers training programs for resident physicians in more than 20 medical specialties.

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