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Could I Be Suffering From Horse Allergies?

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Updated September 29, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Could I Be Suffering From Horse Allergies?
Answer: Domesticated horses are relatively common animals, and can been seen on most trips to the countryside, at the racetrack, or even at special events such as parades and county fairs. Unlike 100 years ago, however, most of us don’t come into daily contact with horses. Despite this, horse allergy is not that rare, affecting nearly 4% of people of people with allergies. Horse dander is able to travel long distances in the air, and has been reported to be found hundreds of yards away from horse stables.

Allergies to horses have been reported for nearly 100 years, with most people experiencing respiratory symptoms such as allergic rhinitis and asthma as a result. In fact, 50% of people with exposure to horse barns report respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Given the ability of horse dander to cause allergy symptoms, however, it would not be surprising to see people experience urticaria, angioedema, and even anaphylaxis as a result of exposure to horses.

Surprisingly, certain people with dog and cat allergies may be predisposed to having horse allergies. A blood protein called albumin, a common allergen in animals, is cross-reactive between horses, dogs and cats. Therefore, some people with dog or cat allergy may experience allergy symptoms with exposure to horses.

Treatment of horse allergy is based on the symptoms that a person is experiencing, and is the same as the treatment of allergies caused by other allergic triggers. Allergy shots, or immunotherapy, to horses has been shown to be safe and effective for the treatment of horse allergies, and offers the only potential cure.

Learn more about allergies to less common pets.

Sources:

Mazan MR, Svatek J, Maranda L, et al. Questionnaire Assessment of Airway Symptoms in Equine Barn Personnel. Occup Med. 2009;59:220-5.

Weber RW. Horse Dander. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2010;105:A12.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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