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Thinking of dumping your girlfriend because she has cats? Tired of going to her apartment and, after 20 minutes, having to honk into your hankie and dab your runny eyes?

Or maybe you're a cat lover with allergies. No feline friends for you?

Well, don't be too hasty about ending your relationship -- with your girlfriend or your cat. A new study provides some hope. Cat allergy sufferers who were treated with a prescription steroid nasal spray for a week and then put in a room with two cats for an hour had significantly fewer allergy symptoms than they did when treated with a placebo.

The drug is triamcinolone acetonide, usually prescribed for hay fever, and when used two sprays per nostril twice a day for one week, it eased such symptoms as congestion, runny nose, itching, wheezing and tightening of the chest. But the effect is only temporary, working for about the first 30 minutes of exposure to cats.

According to Dr. Robert A. Wood of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., who conducted the study, other areas of research include air cleaners and allergy shots.

Here are some steps to lessen allergy symptoms prescribed by Dr. William Busse of the University of Wisconsin in Madison that don't require a prescription:

"First, keep the cat out of the bedroom. There's also evidence that if a cat is damp-cloth cleaned once a week, this can reduce the amount of allergen in the environment." Since cats' saliva contains an allergen, when they lick themselves clean, it sends the allergen cascading into the environment.

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