Doctors are testing a promising new treatment that could help people who choose to suffer rather than part with their furry friends.
Jill Dow has always loved cats.
"It's just such a sense of relaxation, it is unconditional love," said Jill.
But even with that love, after holding her 11-year-old calico cat, Cali, she must wash her hands right away. Jill has suffered with cat allergies for years.
"Within seconds, I would just light up and my nose would run and I would sneeze like crazy, like 10 times in a row," she said.
Allergist Doctor Robert Anolik estimates as many as one in four people in the U.S. is allergic to cats.
One solution is to stay away from them, but for many, like Jill, that's easier said than done.
"The joke amongst allergists is 50 percent of people that you tell to get rid of cats say they won't and the other 50 percent lie," said Dr. Anolik.
So when exposed to cat dander, many will reach for over-the-counter medications.
They work, but cause side effects such as sleepiness.
Another option is immunotherapy injections. That's what Jill does. It also works, but it's a big commitment.
"But the total treatment period is 3, 4 or 5 years and unfortunately people drop off," said Dr. Anolik.
So now doctors are testing a new therapy. It is a phase three clinical trial called the Catalyst study.
Doctors hope just 4 to 8 injections given over 4 to 8 months will have the same effect as 5 years of immunotherapy.
For Jill, she's already scratched the surface with her allergies, so she plans to continue with traditional immunotherapy but hopes this quicker therapy will help others.
"Because I think there are a lot of people like me who love cats but are deterred because of the consequences and sickness they feel when around them," said Jill.
They are still enrolling for the catalyst study. There is no cost to participants.
Allergy and Asthma Specialists http://www.86cough.com/ has several locations and is one of 77 sites involved in the study.
Here are the requirements:
-Must be between 12 -65 years
-Have moderate allergies
-Live with a cat in the home
-Have no other severe *year-round allergies
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