Many people think of getting themselves a pet but then they are not sure if they are allergic to the pet or not. So, it’s a good idea to learn everything about the pet in-depth before getting one. A few years back when I was trying to decide should I get a Guinea pig the first concern that struck my mind was about allergies. Are guinea pigs hypoallergenic? So, I did some research on allergy from guinea pigs and here is what I found out!
No, Guinea pigs are not Hypoallergenic. In fact, Any warm-blooded animal with hair, fur, or feathers can cause an allergic reaction to human beings. Many websites and people claim that there are these special little breeds that are hypoallergenic but studies claim that even the breed with No Fur or Hair can cause an allergic reaction.
But what exactly does hypoallergenic means?
The term “hypoallergenic” means that something is free from allergens or have very little chance to cause an allergic reaction to human beings. There are no set standards by the government for something to be hypoallergenic.
That means there is no standard procedure that we can go through and test if the thing is hypoallergenic or not. That is the reason many people claim that this product is hypoallergenic or this particular breed of the pet is hypoallergenic while it’s simply not true.
Does that mean you should be concerned about the allergic reaction?
No, until and unless you are a sensitive person you should not be much worried about allergies to guinea pigs. See, any pet can cause an allergic reaction to any person but that doesn’t mean you cannot own a pet.
Many people even who are allergic enjoy sharing their homes with there pets but many people believe once they are diagnosed with an allergy to a pet they cannot have any pets. Today we are going to break this myth.
Are guinea pig allergies common?
No, Guinea pigs are not the pet which usually causes an allergy to many people. Although most animals right from mice, cockroach, guinea pigs, cat, dog or even horse can cause an allergy to human beings.
Among all the above animal’s horses and cats are the ones who cause the most allergic reactions as they carry more allergens. Among small animals, twice the people are allergic to cats rather than a dog or any other animals.
Since cats roam around the house spreading the allergen all over the place, while a dog is the one closest to us. They pose more risk than a small animal like a guinea pig who is present in their cage in a particular space of your house.
Can you be allergic to guinea pigs?
Yes, you can definitely develop an allergy to guinea pigs. It is seen that people who are sensitive or have a family background of asthma, hypersensitivity, etc can develop an allergy to guinea pigs. However, it is not the case in 90% of the people.
Many people believe that guinea pigs are the source of their allergy but that might not be the case all the time. Maybe when you brought them they had something attached to their skin or fur which could have caused the allergic reaction. It’s best if you visit a doctor first and check what caused the reaction before coming to a conclusion.
Some people are also allergic to the Smell of guinea pigs. You can learn in-depth about Guinea pigs smell and how to prevent it in this article.
Why am I allergic to guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs are not always the cause of your allergy. In general, when people say they are allergic to guinea pigs then that means they are allergic to one of the allergens the guinea pig carries. Now, what actually is an allergen?
Remember when I said any warm-blooded animal which has hair, fur or feather can cause an allergy to a human being. What I actually meant was the protein that is attached to it causes the allergy. In most cases, hairs or fur is not the actual reason for your allergy; its the protein attached to it.
What exactly are these proteins? in general there are 2 types of protein attached to guinea pigs hair i.e. Cav P I and Cav P II. These proteins generally are carried and transmitted either by dander, Saliva or urine of the guinea pig. Let me explain to you all in detail how these are transmitted and causes allergic reactions in human beings.
Dander is the first and most basic cause of an allergic reaction to human beings. It is basically the dead skin cells which animals shed on a regular interval. It is one of the root allergen triggering allergies in human beings.
Most warm-blooded animals including guinea pigs regardless of their breed, size or hair length is going to produce dander which will spread in the surrounding eventually leading to allergies. These allergies are mostly the result of protein from the dander itself.
Guinea pigs saliva primarily contains Cav P I and Cav P II. These are the major Guinea pigs allergen, which causes various allergies in individuals. Guinea pigs are clean animals; they usually groom themselves all the time.
In general, Guinea pigs use a white wax-like liquid that comes from the end of their eyes and their own saliva to groom their fur. Often time this results in their saliva protein getting all over their fur.
Thus whenever we come in contact with the fur the protein allergen reacts with the individual and causes severe allergies.
Just like guinea pigs saliva the urine of guinea pigs also contains Cav P I and Cav P II. The concentration of these proteins in the urine is even higher than that of saliva.
Since guinea pigs are caged animals usually they have very limited space and when they move around, eat and pee at the same cage it is a normal phenomenon for the urine to get over their fur. Also, If their cage is not maintained on a daily basis the chances of getting infected further rises high.
This is one of the major allergens in small mammals like guinea pigs. The grease glands are the most infected area with a large number of allergens present in it.
Note: Except these many times we find that people are actually allergic to hay and bedding of guinea pigs. So, it is really important first to find the cause of the allergy and then take the necessary action to prevent the same.
Source: US National Library of Medicine.
How to know if you are allergic to guinea pigs?
Although the intensity of allergy from guinea pigs differs from person to person. In general most of the individuals show some common symptoms of being allergic to guinea pigs. These symptoms can be lighter in some person were as severe in the other.
- Runny nose
- Itchy skin and eyes
- Red rashes in some parts of the skin(mostly hands).
- Shortness of breath
Some people have more visible allergic reactions than others. If you are unsure about the same you can wait and observe your body carefully for any signs of uneasiness. But just because you were sneezing when you were around guinea pig doesn’t mean you are allergic to them.
There can be some severe cases of diseases that can be caused due to allergies from guinea pigs. Some of the worst diseases include:
- Anaphylactic shock
Although these diseases are rare cases of allergies and are extremely unlikely to happen. In most cases, you will have some light symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, etc.
Please note: I am not a medical professional. All the data written below are collected from credible sources but for proper medical advice consult your doctor!
What to do if you are allergic to guinea pigs?
Guinea pigs can cause allergies to some person but that doesn’t mean you cannot have a guinea pig or any other pet. If you are allergic to the guinea pigs and unless the allergy is severe we can take some steps in order to stop being allergic to guinea pigs and decrease the allergens from our indoor environment.
- Do not keep the guinea pigs cage in the bedroom. If possible have a dedicated room for them this shall ensure the allergen does not get spread all over the place.
- Try to have good ventilation and airflow in the area your guinea pigs are kept. Additionally using a H.E.P.A air purifier can further pull out all the allergens from the air and keep it clean.
- If you are allergic to hay or their bedding try to store them outside your house in a cool and dry place.
- Clean the room floor, curtains, or any other thing present in the room where guinea pigs are located on a regular basis to keep them allergen-free.
- Have a non-allergic person clean the cage on a daily basis so the allergens do not build up over time.
- Clean your cage thoroughly using vinegar and soap once a week or so this shall sanitize the living environment very effectively.
- Avoid hay or pine bedding, Use effective bedding that keeps the cage clean. Try CareFresh, Cell-sorb, or towel.
- Try to use only good quality hay. There are many brands that provide dust-free and fresh hay.
- You can use gloves and a face mask while working with hay or ask someone else to do it for you.
- Wash your hands before and after holding your guinea pigs. If possible use a towel to hold them whenever possible.
- Wash the towel used for holding after every time it is used. This shall prevent any spreading of allergens in your skin.
- Use a good vacuum cleaner to clean your house on a regular basis. this shall clean away all the dust and dander from the environment.
- Do not bring your guinea pigs near your mouth and neck. These are the most sensitive area of your skin. If possible avoid taking your guinea pigs in your beds and other mattresses.
- You can also use some medication to relieve yourself from the allergy. Allergy shots, antihistamines, decongestants, inhalers, etc works great in decreasing the symptoms over time.
- You can also consume a diet high in Vitamin C for making your immune system strong against such allergy and curing them in the long-term.
Although there is no exact or proper cure for the same. A mix of maintaining a clean living environment and medication seems to have worked for many people who want to own a guinea pig despite the allergy.
You can learn more about pet allergies in this article from a helpful resource.
Conclusion: Guinea pigs and allergies
Are Guinea Pigs Hypoallergenic? No, guinea pigs are definitely not hypoallergenic but most people are not allergic to these furry little pets. Some people do have some allergy symptoms which can be stopped by using the above methods.
An Alternative, I would suggest you should first visit a pet store or ask some friends guinea pig for some time and spend some time with them to see how your body reacts. If your body is normal with it you can get yourself a guinea pig for sure. Else you need to reconsider your decision to buy the Guinea pig once again.
I would recommend you to learn more about guinea pigs before you get one for yourself or if you have not researched them in detail then this might be the right time to start. Here are a few articles which you must read:
Are there any hypoallergenic guinea pig breeds?
No, There are no guinea pigs which are hypoallergenic. In fact, there are no warm-blooded animals with hair, fur or feather which are hypoallergenic. Although some animals produce more allergens than others; allergen-free animals are only a lie.
Are skinny pigs hypoallergenic?
No, skinny guinea pigs can also cause allergies just like regular guinea pigs. As we have discussed earlier the cause of allergy is the protein that comes from dander, saliva, and urine of the guinea pig. Hair is not at all the cause of allergy but it is surely a carrier of allergen.
So, the thought that hairless guinea pig is hypoallergenic is just a myth.
Sources: Severe allergic reactions to a guinea pig, allergic reactions to guinea pig
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