For people with pet allergies, holiday gatherings in homes with furry, four-legged animals can turn an otherwise good time into a nightmare of itchy, red, watery eyes and endless bouts of sneezing.

Whether you’re the person with allergies or you're hosting a party and you have pets, you can take steps to alleviate unpleasant symptoms and keep your focus on enjoying the company of friends and family, say Consumer Reports experts and the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI).

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If You’re Hosting People With Pet Allergies

Send your pet on a vacation. If possible, remove your pet from your home before you begin to clean and set up for your gathering, and for the duration of the event. If you can't move your pet out temporarily, confine him or her to one room before preparations begin.

Clean, clean, clean. Pet hair can trigger allergic reactions, but the main culprit is actually proteins in pet dander, tiny flecks of shed skin that settle onto wood floors, rugs and carpeting, furniture, and clothing.

To reduce allergen levels in the home, vacuum thoroughly. Use a vacuum equipped with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, says the AAAAI. Vacuum rugs and carpets extra carefully, and don’t forget to vacuum drapes, couches, and chairs thoroughly, too.

Check out the vacuum cleaners that were top dogs in Consumer Reports' pet hair tests.

Consider a room air purifier. Some research suggests that room air purifiers provide some benefit to pet allergy sufferers, though they seem to help most when they are used long-term. Still, if you have an air purifier it can't hurt to place it in the main room where you'll host your guests.

Stock up on antihistamines. Your guests will appreciate it if they forget to bring their own. Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs says a good antihistamine to stock would be an over-the-counter product such as cetir­i­zine (Zyrtec and generic), fexofenadine (Allegra and generic), or loratadine (Claritin and generic).

Generic versions of all those drugs work just as well—and cost less—than their brand name counterparts, research shows.

If You Have a Pet Allergy

Be prepared. Don’t know whether a home you are visiting has a pet or not? Call and check with the hosts.

Use the right medication. In addition to an OTC antihistamine such as cetir­i­zine, fexofenadine, or loratadine, you might also consider an OTC steroid nasal spray such as fluticasone (Flonase Allergy Relief) and triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24 HR). Research shows they are very effective at relieving congestion, sneezing, postnasal drip, and other allergy symptoms.