A-choo! The case of the allergic houseguest

October 27, 2011 | By | Comments (4)

This week’s reader dilemma: “I am allergic to all pet hairs, I usually feel like I have the flu when I am around pets too long. With the holidays coming, I am sure I will be going to visit family, most of which have lots of pets,” SaraFC wrote.  “When I stay with them, there is always pet hair in the beds, on the sheets, and the pillows. I am always sick because of the linens. How can I politely bring this up and address the situation?”

You have my sympathies, SaraFC. As a pet owner (I have two dogs), I am well aware of how much fur animals shed. Tumbleweeds everywhere! I fantasize about a tiny portable feather duster dogs could wear around their collars, enabling them to clean up after themselves as they scamper around the house.

While the kinks are still being worked out of that invention, here is another solution. If clean bedding or a thorough housecleaning would alleviate your symptoms, ask for it nicely. Do it like this:

A few days before your arrival, phone your hosts and say you are looking forward to celebrating the holidays and appreciate their kind offer of housing. Then add, “I wanted to give you a heads up that my allergies have been bothering me, and I may not be able to stay overnight if the symptoms get bad. I’m alerting you ahead of time so you won’t think it’s your fault if I get sick and have to leave.”

At this point, your hosts (if they are gracious) will say, “Oh, that’s terrible, we’d hate it if you couldn’t be here with us. Is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable in our home?”

That’s your opening. Remind them that contact with pet dander and fur exacerbates symptoms, and ask if they would mind keeping the bedroom door closed after they get the guest room ready for you. “If no pets get onto the bed after you’ve put on the clean sheets, it will help a lot,” you can say. This will remind them they need to do the laundry—without implying they are shoddy housekeepers.

Back up plan: Pack a lint roller in your suitcase, and run it over the pillowcases and bedding – just in case.

If this doesn’t help, move to a hotel to avoid feeling sick and ruining your holiday season. Your family will understand.

What do you think? Have you ever had an allergic houseguest? Or been one? How did you solve the problem?

(image via Realsimple.com)