Sometimes in life, the cutest creatures can cause us severe allergies. Much like puppies and kittens, guinea pigs can also trigger allergies. Signs of allergies may include, but aren’t limited to itchy/watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, wheezing, shortness of breath, persistent coughing, skin rashes, and anaphylactic shock. The latter is a very serious medical emergency and if you think you may be experiencing it, you should call an ambulance immediately. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may also include asthma, rhinitis, conjunctivitis, or eczema. These are difficulties in breathing, changes in sinus fluid secretion, inflammation or infection of the eyes, and a skin rash that may be itchy and/or inflamed.
What Causes These Allergies In Guinea Pigs
Although you might think that it’s the pet dander or guinea pig hair that causes allergies, that’s not actually the case. With guinea pigs, the allergens actually derive from the protein in the urine they expel into their bedding or their saliva. When the animals run around their pens, they kick up the allergen particles and distribute them into the air where they can alight on you and trigger an allergy attack. This is why people with guinea pig allergies shouldn’t clean their cages. However, if you do have guinea pig allergies and still want to keep them, there are a few pieces of good news with the first being that there’s no difference between long-haired or short-haired piggies in regards to allergy triggers.
You also have a few recourses in regards to avoidance and treatment of allergies. One option is to wear gloves and long sleeves when playing with your guinea pigs and change clothes immediately afterward. Several people who keep them have reported success with this method and that it works well with indoor guinea pigs, although you should still wash your hands and arms afterwards, just in case. Overall, though, people with these allergies should really make an appointment with a physician or allergist to get tested for guinea pig allergies. Make sure that you specify that you need a test for guinea pig allergies when you or the doctor schedule the appointment so the allergist has time to order the serum if need be. If you do turn out to be allergic, the allergist will likely order a round of immunotherapy shots to try to cure you of your allergies rather than just treating the symptoms with medication the way many people do with seasonal allergies. People with asthma may particularly benefit from immunotherapy since it’s a cure and allergies are known to often trigger asthma attacks in those afflicted by it. If the allergist determines that you aren’t allergic to the guinea pigs, let them know what type of guinea pig bedding you use as you may be allergic to hay, pine, aspen, etc.
Don’t store hay exposed inside of your house. If you do need to keep it in your house, try to keep it in an airtight container away from areas you normally inhabit. Don’t keep your guinea pig in your bedroom either as most people spend the majority of their time at home in that room. You can filter the air with two HEPA air purifiers- one in your bedroom and one near the pig’s cage- and run them 24/7. Have a non-allergic family member or friend clean the cage with gloves and do so outside at a minimum of once per week if possible before replacing the bedding with non-allergenic products such as CareFresh or towels. Only use as much hay in the cage as they’ll eat and have a non-allergic friend pre-fill paper bags with hay that you can drop in the cage. The guinea pigs won’t mind tearing the bag open for you! You should also dust and vacuum frequently, run the air purifier on high after any hay or cage cleaning, and try to avoid placing guinea pig cages on carpeting.
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Disclaimer: This information is no way meant as proper medical advice. If you are allergic to your guinea pigs, I encourage you to consult your physician or allergist to receive proper medical advice.
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