I have a very VERY sensitive dog allergy. I've gotten sick for 5 days because I was downwind from a dog in a car 50 feet away from me.
I spent all last fall developing techniques to avoid exposure. I was sick all last fall from allergies, because I kept on having allergy accidents. I wear an allergy mask when I'm outside my house; use a piece of thread to gauge wind direction, etc. etc. The mask only helps a little with dog allergen, though it's very good to filter out the pollens.
I've been driven to extremes by my allergies, and I've worried about getting into conflicts with the police. Especially with police K9 units of course. I worry about being labeled a weirdo or mentally ill.
Yesterday that happened. I'd gone to get my bike repaired. The bike shop had had a dog in there earlier in the day, so I knew being in the shop could make me sick.
They were able to repair my bicycle while I waited. So I went across the street and found a place where I was generally upwind of the street. The main risk is from dogs going by in cars, I've found.
After awhile a construction worker comes along and asks me why I'm wearing a mask. I took the mask off momentarily to say "Horrible allergies". Then he starts talking with me about how bad the pollen is this time of year. He said he'd seen a tree release a visible cloud of pollen. I said jokingly that it was like the tree sneezing.
I said "no, there isn't any poison gas around here". Sometimes people have wondered if I was wearing a mask for some reason that they might be concerned about, that's why.
After awhile the construction worker goes away.
Also, a police K9 unit parked for a bit on the street. I saw I was directly downwind from it. Alarmed, I ducked farther away from the street.
Some or all of this caused someone to call the police.
They come along, cop says "We've had complaints you were acting weird". I said "All I've been doing is standing here". I explained that I was waiting for my bike to be fixed.
Cop asks "Do you have mental problems?"
I smiled - who doesn't have mental problems? - and said "No more than anybody else".
Cop asks "Are you on any medications?"
I thought this rather intrusive, but I said "Not any mental medications".
Cop asked for my ID. I gave it to him. They took down the info, wrote up a report etc., returned my ID to me, apologized.
I was nervous waiting after that because the bike shop took longer to finish my bike than I'd expected. I worried the cops would come back and say I'd been there too long.
I wasn't upset or nervous talking to the cop. But I felt rather rattled later. I don't like having uniformed strangers asking me if I'm mentally ill. I do do unusual things, and make creative jokes - but it's ugly having people think I'm crazy just because of that :( Which the construction worker apparently did.
I realized later that I'd had my epi-pen with me. I could have pulled that out to show to the police, to convince them I really do have severe allergies, it's not craziness. (epi-pens are prescription only).
Allergic people do get labeled as having psychological problems. Even though everyone knows allergies are an immune system problem, not a psychological problem, allergic people are often accused of using their allergies to manipulate others or exaggerating them.
I don't know about anyone else, but allergies are a HUGE burden for me and I have no wish to make the burden any worse!
I was worried that they were going to force you into a car with a K9.
I've wondered about border crossings - they use dogs there, although the dogs would only be brought out if they become suspicious of someone.
I hope the police are sensitive to possible allergy issues with their dogs. People who have asthma (which I don't) can have fatal allergic reactions.
It sounds like a good thing you didn't reach for your medication. The police probably would have thought you were attempting to retrieve a weapon. Who knows what could have happened after that!
Ithaca where I live is very dog-friendly too. Many businesses let people bring their dogs in, because they don't want to offend their customers. It makes doing stuff outside my house very chancy. I get as much of my stuff as possible from Amazon, I do grocery shopping early in the morning when there are fewer customers and in a big rush, I delay haircuts as long as possible, etc. etc.
I had no idea someone could be so sensitive to dogs before it happened to me. NO clue that our everyday world could look so different to someone with an allergy. I took my dog into stores sometimes, with no idea that it might cause someone a problem; resented ads for no-pets apartments etc. And I had allergies myself at the time, including a mild dog allergy.
I have a friend whose wife has a terrible dog allergy. He said he often had to rush her to the ER because of it - probably asthma. Probably that same problem - dogs pop up everywhere.
I can't imagine trying to live like that.
Hopefully, it's only temporary. I had to move out of my house because of my dog allergy. I ended up renting a new mobile home in a no-dogs park. I'm getting allergy shots, been getting them about 6 months now. I hope they work soon. I keep seeing hints that my allergies are getting better.
One thing that's optimistic is that the part of my allergic reaction that's so severely sensitive is my late-phase reaction, which happens 1/2 hr to several hours after being exposed. My late-phase reaction seems to have become so severe because of chronic exposure - so avoiding allergic reactions should help. I hope. I think immediate severe reactions are more permanent.
I would love to not worry about that sort of thing. I would like to go around dreaming of things and being creative, not with a mask clamped on my face and keeping a hawk's eye out for dogs.
The rate of allergies and asthma is increasing.
Also, there's an increasing tendency for people to want to take their dogs everywhere with them. And service dogs are being used for more and more conditions. It used to be just seeing eye dogs, now there are for example dogs that sense a diabetic is getting low blood sugar so they don't have to prick their finger.
These two tendencies are on a collision course.
There's a widespread tendency to trivialize allergies. Perhaps it comes from TV - all the ads for allergy meds that make allergies humorous. Like: Poor you, you are sneezing so much and your eyes are watering! Achoo! Achoo! Here's the medication for you! Next frame: You are back to normal!
This is not not NOT accurate. Allergies can slow down people's thinking and reactions, impairing them to the point where it's unsafe to drive. An allergic reaction can last for 5 days (or maybe longer). I have been impaired, sick, for 5 days from an allergic reaction.
Medications do not necessarily fix the problem. I take all the meds that seem to help, but they only help a little.
Allergy shots are not a cut and dried fix either. Not everyone can tolerate allergy shots. I got allergy shots from 2002 to 2007, but I was eventually kicked out of allergy shots. I would feel sick after each shot for several days. The allergist did horribly mismanage my allergy shots and might have been able to make them work for me by being a little smart about it. But in any case, allergy shots can be a huge struggle. I'm making real progress with them now, but I do it by putting up with being somewhat sick after the shots. I'm not working, but if I had to work at a job while getting allergy shots I might not be able to get them at all.
It's mostly pet dogs that are a problem. People even sneak their pet dogs into grocery stores sometimes. Service dogs are not that common, and I've rarely had an allergic reaction from a service dog, although I've run out of grocery stores holding my breath because a service dog was there.
It's easy to get fake service dog regalia from sites online, and the laws regarding service dogs are extremely liberal. All someone with a service dog needs to say is that it's a service dog and that the dog is trained to help with a medical condition, and legally they can go pretty much anywhere as long as the dog behaves itself.
This has caused a big problem with fake service dogs. Unethical people can take their pets with them anywhere by pretending it's a service dog, and business owners will often be too intimidated to challenge them. It's a crime to do this, but it would be difficult to prove.
The 2011 ADA tightened up the standards for service dogs, but they are still very liberal. The law mentions allergies to dogs, but still in a trivializing way:
Allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals. When a person who is allergic to dog dander and a person who uses a service animal must spend time in the same room or facility, for example, in a school classroom or at a homeless shelter, they both should be accommodated by assigning them, if possible, to different locations within the room or different rooms in the facility.
There are people, including me, with dog allergies who would become really sick if they had to be in the same building with a dog. I've seen other people online saying the same thing - that they would be sick for several days if they were in the same building with a dog.
So the ADA gives little protection to people with dog allergies, although maybe there's some other law that protects them. This has caused me a lot of problems. I've asked allergists I've seen, what happens if someone walks in with a dog? Can I run out and get the injection or whatever outside? The allergists have said yes. My family doctor refused me, even though I'd actually had an allergic reaction because I walked in when a dog had been there earlier. This is very shabby treatment - people with severe dog allergies do need to see other doctors besides just allergists!
Doctors' offices routinely have signs up and policies forbidding perfumes. I guess because perfumes are an asthma trigger for some people. But dammit, so are dogs!
And, while it's unpleasant to wear a mask everywhere, there are vapor masks that would probably filter out perfumes well enough not to trigger asthma. Dog allergen can't be filtered out well with a mask.
A national ID system is really needed for service dogs, to keep out the fakes. And greater awareness of the potential for triggering severe allergic reactions with the dog. It's important to develop other ways to deal with medical conditions besides going around with a dog. Like service robots :)
Maybe you should wear a special bubble helmet. Get a good air filter system for it, and you are set. Probably cheaper than a doctor visit. It could be air conditioned too.
Or you could lobby for a city ordinance stipulating that every dog wear one.
But really, the libertarian thing to do is let each person fend for themselves. A bubble helmet would be the best approach. If they are contact allergies, rather than inhaled, it will be more difficult. Probably, a full body suit with helmet, like deep sea divers use, or an allergy burka.
Unfortunately there's no kind of mask or helmet available that effectively filters out dog allergen, so far as I know.
I looked into powered air purifying respirators a bit. But the power is used for people who don't have good enough respiration to cope with an unpowered mask. PAPR's don't filter the air better, so far as I could tell. And they're very expensive, like a couple thousand $$.
I have some (very expensive) home air purifiers that filter out a lot of dog allergen. But they use a vast amount of filter material in a prefilter and HEPA filter, much more than someone would carry around with them.
For awhile I was living in my house using an airline respirator that pumped air from outside the house to a facemask that I wore all the time.
This gets around the problem with filters and it did help a lot. But I was still chronically ill living in my house, because I got exposed to some dog allergen anyway.
I hope after awhile I can move back to my house, at least using the airline respirator.
By the way, I think I also have a cat allergy, as a byproduct of the dog allergy. One of the minor dog allergens cross-reacts with the main cat allergen, so many people who are allergic to dogs are also allergic to cats.
That's beyond frustrating. I thought cat allergies were the most powerful, and seem so much more common than dog allergies.
My husband doesn't seem to have a problem with dogs, but his cat allergies are severe. To his credit, he never asked me to get rid of my cat (whom he now loves!) and got shots for almost 3 yrs. He's grown accustomed to her dander for the most part, and she's not allowed upstairs. We've got a true HEPA vacuum (Miele) and a filter for our forced air system in the house.
My sister has several cats + foster kittens that come and go, so visiting her means spending most of the time on the porch! He'll take some Zyrtec I think and that helps a bit, not much.
I'm amazed you can ride a bike at all, seems like everybody in our community has a dog.
It can be risky, living with cats even though one is allergic to them. That's how I got super-allergic to dogs. I was sick without knowing why for about 4 years while living with my dog. So I had an allergic reaction that went on for years with little time when I was well. I had particular circumstances though, aggravating my allergies.
Yes, cats are more allergenic than dogs.
I'm amazed you can ride a bike at all, seems like everybody in our community has a dog.
I keep track of the wind direction and hold my breath when cars go by, if they're downwind of me.