Allergic to guinea pigs?
Are you allergic to your guinea pig?
Are you experiencing any of the sneezing, wheezing, skin rash, itchy eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, whenever you are handling your cavy or cleaning the cage?
If the answer is yes, you may be allergic to your pet. Nevertheless, before you jump out of the window and demolish an innocently parked car which is waiting for its owner to return, please read further and learn how to test yourself and how to help both yourself and the car which is still parked and waiting for its owner to return.
Most commonly reported allergic reactions to guinea pigs are manifesting as:
- Rhinitis: Annoying issue with the nose, which becomes stuffy and runny all the time.
- Conjunctivitis: Inflammation or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids.
- Asthma: Respiratory issue, causes difficulty in breathing.
- Eczema: Itchy and scaly skin rash.
It is possible that allergic person develops edemas (skin, nasal, ocular, laryngeal) in reaction to handling the pet or guinea pig cage.
NOTE: Severe allergic reaction are quite rare. Which is good.
NOTE: Contrary to the popular beliefs, guinea pig hair does not provoke allergic reactions. Allergens are distributed in your pet’s saliva, urine or secretions from the skin glands. Hair can only transmit those allergens through close contact. There are no significant differences between allergic reactions to long- or short-haired guinea pigs.
What to do if you are showing symptoms of allergic reactions?
First of all, you’ll need to see the allergist and get yourself tested for guinea pigs. Subsequent actions depend on the test results:
- If the test comes positive, recommended course of action is immunotherapy. Talk to your physician.
- If the test does NOT come positive for guinea pig allergies, you need further investigation on the cause. It may be the hay, or the bedding materials (aspen, pine). Try to switch materials, or omit them completely for 1 week, and see what happens. Use fleece, towels, paper and shredded paper for a bedding in this period. Use patience because your cavies will hate you for not giving them the hay for a whole week. You will also have to wash the cage, accessories and the cavies to remove potentially irritating leftovers.
Some general recommendations for alleviating allergy symptoms
- Do not keep the guinea pig cage in the bedroom.
- Try to isolate your bedroom and ventilate it regularly with fresh air. You can also try the air filters/purifiers.
- When holding a guinea pig, hold it on a towel, not directly on you. Wash the towel after each holding session.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after holding your pet.
- Do not let your pet near your head and neck. Those areas are more sensitive as the skin is thinner.
- Do not land your pet on your bed, couch or similar resting areas.
- Wash your clothes after handling a guinea pig, or at least do not let them sit in the bedroom when you take them off.
- Store the hay and the bedding materials away from your “everyday rooms”.
- Learn to recognize quality hay. Dusty, brown, old hay is not good for anyone. The dustier the hay, the more irritating it will be.
- Do not clean the guinea pig cage yourself. Let someone other do it – someone who is not allergic. If possibly, to do it outside. (Yup, you’ve dodged the bullet here.)
- Let the person who is in charge of cleaning the cage clean it at least once a week. You just grab a beer and enjoy the afternoon stare at the wall.
- When he/she is done with the cage cleaning, remind him/her that he/she should now thoroughly vaccuum and dust the house because you feel like you can not breathe while drinking the beer.
- In the meanwhile, try to boost your immune system. Finish the beer and get on to some Vitamin C, exercising, fruits and veggs and all the other healthy funny stuff.
- If there is no one else to do the dirty job, clean the cage using gloves and dust mask.
- Force yourself to visit your doctor and the allergist.
NOTE: If you are interested in scientific research in the guinea pig allergy field, I would recommend a paper and references available here.