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Sunday, 10 December, 2000, 00:11 GMT
Cat-lovers 'can make you sneeze'
People who are allergic to cats may find their condition made worse by sitting next to someone who owns cats, researchers say.
A study suggests that cat allergens - the things that make people sneeze if they are allergic to cats - cling to cat-owners' clothes, particularly wool sweaters.
Researchers monitored clothes owned by cat-owners and non cat-owners.
By the end of a working day, non cat-owners working alongside cat-owners had a significant increase in the number of cat allergens on their clothes.
Wool sweaters were found to give 11 times the average exposure to cat allergens and 10 times that of mite allergens, the researchers, from Sydney, Australia, found.
Clothing that was not often washed was found to contain more of both allergens.
Researchers collected clothes from 11 homes, four of which owned a cat.
The home-owners supplied a freshly washed T-shirt, a worn, but unwashed T-shirt, a wool sweater, a jacket and a sweatshirt.
Samples were taken off the clothes using adhesive tape. They also took dust and air samples.
They also collected samples from the homes of people who did not own cats, but worked with people who did.
Dr Chris Corrigan, an allergy consultant and member of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology council said cat allergens were very sticky so could easily attach themselves to clothing.
He said cat allergens were "verging on the ubiquitous."
Dr Corrigan, a consultant at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital, London, estimated about 60% of the UK population have an allergy, and perhaps one in 10 have some level of allergy to cats.
"Some people are extremely sensitive to cat allergens, and they can only walk into a house where a cat has been and they get the symptoms."
He said avoidance was the best answer for sufferers.
The research is published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.