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Achoo! I Think I'm Allergic to You!

Achoo! I Think I'm Allergic to You!

Every so often, I tease my husband by telling him I’m allergic to his “man dander.” Of course, he gets irritated at the suggestion, saying that it’s not really a thing. I hate to break it to him, but he’s wrong.

Oh, who am I kidding? I love to prove him wrong. It’s sort of my hobby.

Anyway, it turns out there’s some real science to support my lighthearted jests.

Who knew?

Not this girl, that’s who. I actually stumbled across this fun fact while researching pet allergies recently. I kid you not, it’s entirely possible to develop an allergy to human dander. Rare, but possible.

Intrigued, I decided to go all the way down this rabbit hole. Follow along and you can discover:

What the heck is human dander?

Turns out, some folks can’t wrap their heads around the idea of human dander. It’s news to them that it’s even a thing – let alone a substance that triggers sneezing, wheezing, and watery eyes in some people.

I'm sorry to be the bearer of gross science news, but human dander exists. Skin is the largest organ in the human body. Its sole purpose is to protect the body from bacteria, chemicals, and temperature.

Humans shed roughly 200 million skin cells every hour. That’s what we call dander. A third of those cells end up in your bed. Say it with me now ... ew!

Each one of those flakes contains proteins that can trigger allergic reactions in some people and animals (we'll talk more about this later).

How did scientists discover human dander allergies?

As with most scientific discoveries, the existence of human dander allergies happened quite by accident. In 1941, Frank Simon, a medical doctor in Louisville, Ky., embarked on a study of the allergenic relationship of various mammal danders.

While setting up a control group, Dr. Simon discovered he couldn’t use human dander because one of his patients had a positive skin reaction to it. It wasn’t a one-off fluke. The good doctor duplicated the results every time he exposed the patient to human dander.

Relieving the sensitivity to human dander required exposing the affected patients to human dander extracts. It wasn’t until 20 years later that researchers classified the allergens into two categories – alpha and beta – and published their findings in the journal Acta Allergologica.

For as much as they’ve studied it over the years, medical researchers still do not fully understand how human dander causes allergic reactions in some people and not others.

A popular belief is human dander allergens bind to Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies in the skin and airways of people sensitive to it. The binding then triggers the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals as your body tries to fight what it perceives as a dangerous invader.

Can cats and dogs develop allergies to humans?

If the thought of people being allergic to other people sounds funny, you might be even more amused at the thought that you could be the reason your cat or dog sneezes or has watery eyes.

Yes, my friends, your cat or dog can develop allergies to human dander. Allergies to people don’t seem to get diagnosed very often. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not more common. It may just be misdiagnosed as generalized atopy.

Still, if you notice your cat or dog experiencing the following symptoms, they may need allergy testing:

  • Frequent ear infections
  • Hair loss
  • Itchy skin
  • Skin redness and swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

If your pet has an allergy (even if it’s not to your dander), the veterinarian may suggest treatments to relieve symptoms. Feeding a hypoallergenic diet and immunotherapy are two of the most popular.

Your vet also might recommend giving your pet an antihistamine. A word of caution if your vet chooses this treatment method. It can cause constipation in your cat or dog. Mixing some pumpkin in with their wet food can alleviate constipation naturally.

How do you get diagnosed with human dander allergies?

Whether it’s you or your pet that seems sensitive to human dander, there’s only one surefire way to know for sure. You must visit an allergy and immunology specialist and get tested.

There are two main types of allergy testing:

  • Skin testing is the most common type of allergy test. An allergist places a small amount of an allergen on your skin, and then pricks or scratches the skin. If you’re allergic, a small red bump develops where you were pricked or scratched. The reaction can happen immediately or take up to 30 minutes depending on your level of sensitivity.
  • Blood testing is another option but is less common. Your allergist draws a blood sample and sends it to the lab for analysis. The lab looks for antibodies to specific allergens in your blood.

Treatment options

There’s no cure for human dander allergies. If you’re among the extremely small number of humans allergic to other humans, the good news is you don’t have to go into isolation. Treatment options exist to help you cope with the symptoms.

Two of the most effective include:

  • Exposure to human dander extracts (immunotherapy/allergy shots).
  • Use of antihistamines to block the reaction.

What are some all-natural allergy relief strategies?

Some people hate taking medication. I’m one of them.

Over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs may fix a problem, but they rarely come without side effects. Some of them can be quite unpleasant.

If you prefer all-natural allergy relief solutions for a human dander allergy, here are some strategies that may alleviate your symptoms.


Acupuncture strengthens your immune system and helps you regulate your immune response to allergens. For some patients, acupuncture can reduce symptoms like sneezing and nasal congestion.

Your acupuncturist targets points in your body for treatment that taps into your immune system. Common places for needle placement for allergy treatment include the front of your hands, feet, and around the nose, face, and ears.

Air Purification Systems:

Improving your indoor air quality can reduce the number of allergens in the air, including human dander. Make sure you choose a model that uses a HEPA-filtration system. HEPA filters remove up to 99.97% of dust, pollen, and other airborne particles. Since human dander can attach itself to dust, these systems are effective at controlling your exposure.

Anti-Inflammatory Supplements:

Quercetin is a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory properties. It’s one of the most popular all-natural allergy relief solutions because it reduces the production of histamine. When taken as directed, it can reduce allergy symptoms like hives, runny nose, nasal congestion, and watery eyes.

Organic Anti-Allergy Sprays and Rinses:

Easy Air Organic Allergy Relief sprays and rinses combat allergens at the source, before you ever breathe them in. Using a capful of the rinse in your laundry cycle destroys allergens on bed linens, clothing, towels, and washcloths. Despite my humorous claims, I’m not really allergic to my husband’s “man dander.” But I am sensitive to dust mites. I’ve noticed a marked decrease in my symptoms since I started using this rinse.

You can get double the effectiveness by pairing the rinse with the Easy Air indoor spray version. Apply lightly to carpeting, curtains, mattresses, pillows, and upholstered furniture.

Start enjoying people again

Living with an allergy to human dander is weird, yes. It’s probably frustrating as well, especially if your allergies flare up the minute you cuddle up with your special someone.

Following some of the tips in this blog can help you enjoy spending time around people again (without a Kleenex stuffed up your nose).

Breathe well, friends!

About the Author: Shari Berg is a researcher, frequent blogger, content strategist, and author of Wars End with Me. 


  1. Acupuncture in allergic rhinitis. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  2. Blood eosinophilia in atopic dermatitis. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  3. Can Dogs Be Allergic to Humans? Accessed July 13, 2023.
  4. Histamine: The reactive substance in human dander. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  5. Immediate Hypersensitivity Skin Reactions to Human Dander in Atopic Dermatitis. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  6. Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Defined. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  7. New insights into skin cells could explain why our skin doesn’t leak. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  8. On the allergen in human dander. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  9. Quercetin. Accessed July 13, 2023.
  10. Skin layers. Accessed July 13, 2023.
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