If you are looking into adding a furry friend to your home, you may want to consider a guinea pig.
Guinea pigs live for several years, they are personable, fun to play with, and cuddly.
Unfortunately, your delightful, cuddly friend could also be the reason you keep sneezing, coughing, and itching.
Common Symptoms of Guinea Pig Allergies
Common symptoms of guinea pig allergies include;
- Rhinitis, characterized by sneezing, runny nose, and stuffiness
- Eczema, a skin rash that’s itchy and inflamed
- shortness of breath and fast heart rate
- conjunctivitis which is an inflammation of the eyes and involves itchy or watery eyes
Luckily, there has not been any reported case of severe allergic reactions to guinea pigs unless you allow your allergies to go unattended.
It’s Not The Hair
Contrary to popular belief, guinea pig allergies are not caused by the pet’s hair. The allergies result from exposure to a protein found in the animal’s urine, sweat, and saliva.
That said, the hair and dander make excellent airborne carriers for the protein, so you should avoid any contact with them.
This raises the question, do we have hypoallergenic guinea pigs? The answer is a resounding NO. There is a misconception that guinea pigs without hair or short hair do not cause allergies, but it’s not true since hair is not the culprit.
Experts also agree that there is no breed that’s better than the other when it comes to allergic reactions.
Dealing With Guinea Pig Allergies
How do you know if you are allergic to your guinea pig? Well, the first thing you have to do is confirm that it’s really the guinea pig you are allergic to and not something else.
People often think they are allergic to the cavy, but it’s actually hay or the cavy’s bedding material that’s affecting them.
If you or someone close have been experiencing the above allergic symptoms after getting the guinea pig, a visit to an allergist and a few tests can confirm or refute your suspicions.
If you really are allergic to the beautiful cuddly friend, you have some decisions to make.
- Take antihistamines. Antihistamines are used to combat allergic reactions and relieve the symptoms much faster. Common over-the-counter antihistamines include Allegra, Cetrizine, and Claritin. You can also try nasal sprays like Azelastine and olopatadine. This will sort out sneezing, running nose, and itching. If the reaction is not severe, the drugs can clear the symptoms in a day or two. For some people, taking an antihistamine immediately after handling a guinea pig helps to prevent the unpleasant allergic reaction.
- Try a decongestant. Other symptoms of guinea pig allergy are blocked nose, wheezing, and trouble breathing because of a blocked chest. If this is you, try taking a decongestant after handling the pet to reduce the symptoms and clear the blockage. A decongestant combined with an antihistamine will work much better, and you can get them from a pharmacy without any prescription. However, if you have high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, or heart disease, you must consult your doctor before taking a decongestant.
- Go outside. Even as you take your decongestant and antihistamine, it’s important to walk outside of the house to get some fresh air. The air may not solve the allergic reaction, but it will help you breathe better before your airways open up. If you are asthmatic, use an inhaler or asthma medication to help with the breathing problems.
What if you are not allergic to the guinea pig?
Chances are, your body’s immune system is reacting to the hay, pine or aspen bedding in your cavy’s cage.
The allergist will help to determine this and recommend switching to less allergic bedding. For example, you may switch from pine to CareFresh and observe if the allergies will stop.
Preventing Guinea Pig Allergies
“If you are truly committed to your companion animals, there is almost always a way.” by Laurie Ansberry.
Having a guinea pig allergy doesn’t necessarily mean you have to get rid of your furry pet. In fact, many people have chosen to keep their pets despite being allergic to them with some precautions.
If you test positive for guinea pig allergy, you can start with immunotherapy treatment right away to help your body stop reacting so badly to the pet.
This is a continuous allergy shot that takes about 18 months to complete, but it’s not a guarantee that you will be completely free of the allergies. However, it is totally worth a try if you are determined to keep your guinea pig.
Besides taking immunotherapy treatment, you can also take these precautions to protect yourself and your family from guinea pig allergies;
A guinea pig should have a dedicated cage where they live and should not be roaming around the house freely. That said, you should also keep the cage in one room or one specific location, preferably not your bedroom or living area. The place where you choose to keep the cage should not be carpeted as carpets will absorb the urine, and you can’t clean it every day.
Buy a HEPA air purifier and keep it right next to the cavy’s cage. Guinea pig allergens stay in the air, and that’s how they move into your respiratory system. A purifier will clean the air around the house and get rid of the allergens as well. Keep the purifier running for 24 hours every day if it’s possible, and keep the house well ventilated by opening doors, windows, and turning on the fan.
Cleaning the guinea pig’s cage is the easiest way to expose yourself to the allergens because that’s where the cavy urinates, sweats, and sheds its fur. Have a non-allergic person clean the cage for you instead and have it cleaned outside the house.
If that’s not possible, you have to take every precaution to protect your body from inhaling or touching the allergens. You can achieve this by wearing gloves, a mask, goggles, and full protective gear on your body.
A guinea pig’s cage should be cleaned at least once a week. After that, let the purifier run on high for an hour or so to pick up any particles that flew into the air when you moved the cage.
When it comes to their bedding, do not use allergenic bedding like hay or pine. Go for Cell-Sorb, CareFresh, and Yesterday’s News instead, or use towels that you can change and clean daily. These should be changed regularly, say every 2-3 days, and cleaned.
Ensure you also clean the area where the cage stays and use a powerful vacuum cleaner to pick up all the allergens.
Only put enough hay for eating and always keep the extra grass outside. When laying the hay racks, wear gloves and a mask to protect your nostrils and skin from the allergens that come from hay.
You can also use a scarf to cover your mouth and nose if you don’t have a mask. Clean your hands and face after touching the hay and turn the purifier on high for an hour.
5. Handling the Guinea Pig
As a pet owner, it’s normal to feel the urge to hold and play with your guinea pig. If you are allergic to it however, you have to be extra careful to avoid triggering your allergies.
- Apply some topical antihistamine before picking up the guinea pig.
- Put some Vaseline inside your nostrils to stop the airborne particles from entering in there and attacking the sensitive lining of your nose.
- Hold your cavy on a few thick towels every time and wash them immediately after use. This will cover you from direct contact with the piggie.
- Try to wear a turtleneck or a scarf around your neck every time you hold the piggie because the neck area is quite sensitive and prone to allergic reactions.
- Wear a mask and try to keep them away from your face and neck.
- Change your clothes immediately and then wash your hands and face after handling a guinea pig.
- Keep the HEPA purifier nearby when you are holding the cavy and let it run for an extra thirty minutes after putting them back in their cage.
- If possible, only hold the guinea pig when you are outside the house. This will prevent the allergens from getting all over your furniture, carpets, and indoor air.
Can You Be Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
Yes. It’s such a shame that many people who are allergic to guinea pigs will never be able to witness how social these animals are with humans.
They are in the sad situation where the urine, saliva or other natural proteins that guinea secrete causes allergic reactions. These allergens affect humans who are allergic to guinea pigs in several different ways ranging from rashes to respiratory issues.
Do not think that people are feeling allergic simply by contacting the hair or dander of guinea pigs. It’s the secretions that are the culprit beneath their hair. Guinea pigs can cause allergies when you are in close contact or handling them without knowing you are allergic.
Please seek the diagnosis from a medical professional who can run allergy tests to confirm your assumption that the uneasy feeling or negative reactions physically occurring are directly correlated to your recent contact or interaction with a guinea pig.
Do Guinea Pigs Have Dander?
Yes. Guinea pigs have dander along with many other mammals or rodents. Here is a short list of pocket pets on our website that have dander:
- Guinea pigs
Dander is the material that flakes off their skin. It was widely considered that many people who were experiencing allergic reactions to guinea pigs were being affected by their dander.
This is simply not true and has been proven to be false. It’s the secretions from guinea pigs whether urine, saliva or other proteins that cause the allergic reactions.
Preventing the spread of dander can be reduced in environments that are not too dry. You can run a humidifier in the winter to help fight back against the excess flaking of the skin.
How to Treat Guinea Pig Allergy Rash?
The allergic reaction of guinea pigs can come in many forms. You can feel shortness of breath or other respiratory reactions, but in many cases people experience a skin rash.
The rash can look like lesions because the effect is zoonotic. This is common with mammals and rodents who secrete proteins through their saliva or urine leading to allergic reactions in sensitive humans that handle or come into direct contact with them.
- It’s important to initially wash your arms, hands or any other area that has come into contact with the guinea pig if you know that you are allergic.
- Now, the next step is to seek the help of a doctor or at least a pharmacist.
- The topical ointment you will receive can induce corticosteroids.
- You may also receive a prescription or be able to purchase over the counter antihistamines.
Try not to search and apply random creams that are leftover in your medicine cabinet and visit a doctor or pharmacist right away instead.
How Do You Know If You’re Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
You will feel uncomfortable in many ways or just one of the ways listed below if you are allergic to guinea pigs:
- Runny nose
- Skin rashes
The type of allergy is zoonotic and is expressed through making contact or handling guinea pigs. The secretions are proteins from their skin, urine or saliva. You may feel stuffed up at first or find it difficult to take deep breaths.
The areas of your hand or arms that came into contact with a guinea pig may start to feel itchy. This could turn into a burning sensation. Soon after, you may develop small lesions in multiple areas on your skin.
If the condition is more respiratory, wheezing or runny nose may occur. It’s best to get this condition checked out by a doctor to find out the next course of action ranging from antihistamines or cortisol creams.
Why Am I Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
We’re sorry that you are allergic to guinea pigs. Have you visited the doctor or a clinic for allergy tests? Can you find out how many allergies you have and make sure that guinea pigs are the actual culprit?
You may also have allergies to rodents or other mammals as well. It’s best for you to get a complete list of possible allergies that cause your allergic reaction. You probably have a negative reaction to the proteins being secreted by guinea pigs from their saliva or urine.
The protein secretions can also be transferred over to their hair or dander. If hair or flakes of skin are dropped in areas that you frequent, you may have come into contact with it. This may cause breathing issues or rashes on your skin.
How Common Is It to Be Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
It is common for people to be allergic to animals. Some of these animals can include rodents and felines such as hamsters, chinchillas or cats. The hair on these animals itself is not the source of the allergy.
It is common for people to be allergic to protein secretions instead. There are multiple secreted proteins coming out of animals and humans. Some of which carry allergens that may react with your skin or respiratory systems.
It is not common for you to only be allergic to guinea pigs and nothing else. This is why it’s important to find out your full range of possible allergies and limit your contact with any of them.
It’s a shame that you cannot be a part of our guinea pigs community as a caregiver and personal handler of these lovable pets. We appreciate your involvement in any way possible and thank you for taking the time to look into this issue that is causing you discomfort.
When to Find Your Guinea Pig a New Home
Sometimes, nothing you do can protect you from the allergic reactions caused by petting a guinea pig. If you have tried immunotherapy and taken all the precautions we have discussed here, and nothing works, it may be time to find your furry friend a new home.
While allergic reactions are nothing serious initially, they may trigger some severe problems in the long run such as asthma and anaphylactic shock when you overwork the immune system.