Human hair is a potential source of cat allergen contamination of ambient air

Allergy. 2005 Jul;60(7):961-4. doi: 10.1111/j.1398-9995.2005.00796.x.


Background: We have previously shown that airborne cat allergen levels are significantly lower in school classes using special school clothing or in classes with no pet owners. However, cat allergen is present and the levels are in fact two- to threefold higher on cat owners' than noncat owners' school clothing which is used, washed and stored at school only. This suggests that allergen is transferred to schools by routes other than clothing.

Aim: To analyse levels of cat allergen (Fel d 1) in hair from cat owners and noncat owners among children and adults.

Methods: Samples of unwashed hair (> or =1 day prior to sampling) from adults and children with (n = 22) or without (n = 22) cats at home were collected at a hairdresser. In addition, samples of newly washed hair (adults only, n = 11) were collected. The hair sample was extracted and analysed for Fel d 1 content with ELISA.

Results: The geometric mean levels were more than two orders of magnitude higher in unwashed hair from cat owners, compared with noncat owners (P < 0.0001) and more than 10-fold higher in newly washed hair from adults. The allergen contamination of unwashed hair among noncat owners appeared higher in children than in adults (P = 0.045).

Conclusions: Hair may be an important source for transfer and deposition of cat allergen in schools and may explain why cat allergen is found in environments with strict allergen avoidance measures. Although it may be unrealistic to apply allergen avoidance strategies against this allergen source, it is important to be aware of it.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / immunology
  • Air Pollution, Indoor*
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Child
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Glycoproteins / immunology*
  • Hair / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure


  • Air Pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Glycoproteins
  • Fel d 1 protein, Felis domesticus