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Increasing Prevalence of Sensitization to Cat/Dog Allergens in the COVID-19 Pandemic.

INTRODUCTION: Cat and dog allergens are common indoor triggers for respiratory allergies such as allergic rhinitis and asthma. This study aims to evaluate the prevalence of cat and dog allergies in adults and analyze changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed the medical records of 8,102 patients who visited an allergy clinic and underwent skin prick testing (SPT) from March 2018 to March 2022: 2 years before and 2 years during the pandemic. Demographic information, clinical attributes, and laboratory results were examined based on patient records.

RESULTS: Of 8,102 SPTs performed, 400 (4.9%) were sensitized to cat allergen and 289 (3.6%) to dog allergen. Allergic rhinitis was the predominant clinical diagnosis in both groups. Of the 400 subjects exposed to cats, 240 (60%) experienced allergic symptoms, while of the 289 subjects exposed to dogs, 65 (22.5%) experienced allergic symptoms during exposure. Within the cat-sensitized group, anaphylaxis was observed in 5 patients (1.3%), while no cases of anaphylaxis were reported in the dog-sensitized group. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, patients presenting during the pandemic had higher rates of cat and dog sensitization (5.7% vs. 4.1%; p < 0.05, 5.2% vs. 1.7%; p < 0.05).

CONCLUSION: During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an increase in cat and dog allergies among adults. Increased exposure to pet antigens, both directly and indirectly, has resulted in more people becoming sensitized to cats or dogs.

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