There are words in our language that have multiple meanings, leading to a great deal of frustration at times. ‘Dander’ is a perfect example.
If you’ve ever heard the idiom “getting one’s dander up,” you probably have a good idea of at least one meaning of the word. Getting your dander up means you’re getting angry. In this usage, dander means a temper. Several theories have been proposed about the etymology, or origin, of the word as a synonym for temper, but no one is certain about how it came about.
Trying to keep the bizarre twists and turns of the English language straight is definitely enough to get your temper boiling!
But dander also means tiny scales from hair, feathers, or skin. It comes from all warm-blooded animals, including people, and is most often referred to as having come from pets. That’s where it can become a problem for some humans: for those who have allergies, excessive amounts can cause a bad reaction. People with asthma can suffer breathing problems if they come into contact with too much of it.
Interestingly enough, WebMD reports pet dander is everywhere, even in the homes of people without pets, because it is carried on people’s clothing. Who knew?
Then there are dust mites, those horrifying little bugs that look like alien creatures when viewed from a microscope: dust mites can be another trigger for people with allergies, and dust mites feast on the various forms of dander we and our pets give off. That’s why there are those disturbing commercials about dust mites in mattresses and pillows: we shed a good deal of those flakes from our hair and skin in our beds.
Fortunately, I’m either not allergic to it or I have an allergy that’s so mild that it doesn’t bother me. If I ever became allergic to dogs, I don’t know what I’d do…other than invest in a medicine cabinet full of allergy medication. Giving up the dog is not an option.