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View Full Version : Can I stop being allergic to guinea pigs if I get more exposed to them?


phantom lamb
03-08-2011, 07:22 AM
It's been ten years since my last guinea pig died. They were great pets. I've been thinking a lot lately and I really want to buy one again.
But it seems for the past several years I have developed an allergy that I didn't have before. Now, If even get near a guinea pig my face gets swollen red, my nose clogs up, my eyes tear up and I start sneezing uncontrollably for hours.

So, if I were to try some gradual limited exposure, would my body get used to it? Or would I just harm myself even more and make everything worse? I don't know if I can get used to the idea of not being able to hold a guinea pig again. Totally not fair.

I thought about a hamster or a rabbit instead but it's really not the same :(

BigT
03-08-2011, 10:01 AM
I believe the question is whether you can get your exposure low enough. It might also be useful to find out what exactly about guinea pigs you are allergic to. The fact that you were constantly exposed to them in the past is suspicious. Correct me if I'm wrong, guys, but isn't it more usual for the allergy to start after the first contact?

Leaffan
03-08-2011, 10:08 AM
Sounds like my reaction to cats. I've had this, along with other seasonal allergies my entire life. No amount of exposure seems to lessen the degree of suffering, but they make some pretty good antihistamines these days. Of course whether you want to take an antihistamine every day is another question.

Mama Zappa
03-09-2011, 11:25 AM
I'm allergic to cats. At one point, I found that if I got a cat, after a few days of misery I would stop reacting. This was good :). I have no idea why the reactivity decreased.

Then we got a second cat... and within a month I was having daily asthma attacks.

20+ years later, and 20+ years cat-free :(, and the asthma has never gone back into remission.

I tried everything to be able to keep those cats: allergy shots, antihistamines, cleaning... and no luck.

Anyway: You *might* find that your guinea pig allergy can be mitigated somewhat with the use of antihistamines and dander-control efforts (e.g. don't have the pet in your bedroom). Before you take that step, however, try taking an antihistamine such as Zyrtec for a few days then spend as much time as possible around a pig, to see if that makes their company tolerable.

I found out that I'm *somewhat* allergic to ours, a few years ago when one of them was sick and required a lot of handling (force-feeding, medicating). She'd scramble up my front to hide under my chin, poor beastie, to get away from The Evil Food Mush. And I had a lot more allergic symptoms, asthma, even skin irritation, during all of that.

I think it's likely that you'd also be allergic to a bunny (or develop an allergy to same). Ditto a hamster but you don't spend as much time interacting with a hamster, as you do with a bunny or a guinea pig.

Mosier
03-09-2011, 12:04 PM
To answer your question factually, the answer is "one can not typically cure allergic reaction by small exposures to the allergen."

You have to remember what's happening during an allergic reaction. The swollen face, sneezing, watery eyes, etc. are an immune system response. Your body thinks it's doing something good by making you miserable and violently combating the intruding allergen. Subsequent exposures to the same allergen are much more likely to cause your body to become even more vigilant in its response and increase the severity of the allergic reaction. Trying to expose yourself to low doses of guinea pig could do you harm, and will certainly not do any good.

araminty
03-09-2011, 02:36 PM
I think it's likely that you'd also be allergic to a bunny (or develop an allergy to same). Ditto a hamster but you don't spend as much time interacting with a hamster, as you do with a bunny or a guinea pig.

This is not neccesarily the case. Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents, and have pretty different saliva/dander allergens. Try hanging out with a rabbit, or ask an allergist for a skin test.

I'm allergic to guinea pigs too, I sneeze uncontrollably if I get too close or handle them. I have also had allergic reactions to porcupine exposure.

Also, IMHO, rabbits make much more awesome pets (http://language.rabbitspeak.com/) than guinea pigs. You can even clicker train (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgDHWLyztCI&feature=fvwrel/) them!

phantom lamb
03-09-2011, 03:51 PM
Thank you guys for your replies. I really didn't know much about how allergies work. But I guess it seems very unlikely that I can get rid of this allergy by myself. I may try the antihistamine method although it's more work than I was hoping to invest.

araminty the rabbit video is adorable. They're almost like dogs. The only problem is they're a bit big and require more space to run around (compared to guinea pigs).

CatherineZeta
03-09-2011, 03:56 PM
That's so funny that someone else is allergic to pigs. I grew up with them, but developed an allergy when I was around 16 when we got pig with a different type of fur (there are several types of pigs- abyssians, teddy bears, peruvians, etc.) I would break out in a rash when I held the Peruvians for whatever reason, my parents took me to an allergist and they determined that I was in fact allergic. I can't remember what the explanation was anymore....I think it just gradually developed though.

My solution was to wrap them in a towel so I could still hold and pet them. You could also try taking benadryl....but if you're so allergic that it could cause difficulty breathing, etc. then I doubt it's worth the risk.

I am also a big fan of bunnies, so they're a good substitute.

engineer_comp_geek
03-09-2011, 05:35 PM
To answer your question factually, the answer is "one can not typically cure allergic reaction by small exposures to the allergen."

IANAD, but this is the exact opposite of my understanding of it.

In my own practical experience, I used to be allergic to cats and dogs. Many years ago, I got a dog and, as expected, I had a mild allergic reaction to it at first. Over time, though, I grew to be immune to it. The same thing happened when we got a cat. It bothered me at first, but over time my allergies have diminished quite a bit.

An anecdote isn't scientific data. However, the treatment for bee sting allergies is to periodically inject very small amounts of bee venom. So the technique does seem to be valid.

My daughter also has food allergies, and we've managed to get rid of a lot of them by going through a period where she was completely free of exposure to those foods, then slowly reintroduced them in small amounts. It has worked with some of her food allergies, but not all of them. She can now eat wheat in any amount she wants, corn in small amounts only, but must still avoid most types of nuts. For some reason, the nut allergy has gotten worse, while the others have all gotten better.

araminty
03-12-2011, 01:32 PM
araminty the rabbit video is adorable. They're almost like dogs. The only problem is they're a bit big and require more space to run around (compared to guinea pigs).

Not necessarily (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netherland_Dwarf)! My favourite colours are the orange and silver marten!

kayjaybee
12-19-2011, 05:34 PM
I grew up with guinea pigs until I was about 11 years old. Never had an allergic symptom because of them until a few years after we got rid of them, I held a friend's guinea pig and my face swelled up, eyes and nose literally ran for hours and contant sneezing. It is ridiculous! I am exactly the same with rabbits as well. I really want to buy a guinea pig now that I'm 21 and living in my own house :mad:

VOW
12-19-2011, 06:05 PM
If you REALLY want a guinea pig, make an appointment with an allergist, and be TESTED. Tell the doctor about the guinea pig dilemma.

If you show up allergic per their testing, you can get "allergy shots" that will desensitize you.

If you have your face swelling, eyes tearing, uncontrolled sneezing, you could very well have the allergic reaction travel to your throat. If that happens, you have just minutes for somebody else to get you to a hospital. Because you'll pass out from lack of oxygen.

It's worth it to do the testing. You could be allergic to the bedding used with guinea pigs, or the "Guinea Pig Chow" the animal is being fed.

I've got asthma. My family doctor said, "Get rid of your cat." I didn't want to. I've been to an allergist, and the testing says NO, I'm NOT allergic to cats. I'm taking a different nasal spray now, and I try to stay away from perfumes and cleaning products.

My cat is happy.


~VOW

MagicEyes
12-20-2011, 10:38 PM
This is not neccesarily the case. Rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents, and have pretty different saliva/dander allergens. Try hanging out with a rabbit, or ask an allergist for a skin test.

I'm allergic to guinea pigs too, I sneeze uncontrollably if I get too close or handle them. I have also had allergic reactions to porcupine exposure.

Also, IMHO, rabbits make much more awesome pets (http://language.rabbitspeak.com/) than guinea pigs. You can even clicker train (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgDHWLyztCI&feature=fvwrel/) them!True--I'm severely allergic to guinea pigs, but I don't have any problems with rabbits. And rabbits are awesome pets. They're more trainable than guinea pigs, and they live longer.

TriPolar
12-20-2011, 11:28 PM
Some people get desensitized from exposure. But the problem usually doesn't go away altogether, and may leave you reacting more severely to other allergens.

Mosier
12-20-2011, 11:47 PM
An anecdote isn't scientific data. However, the treatment for bee sting allergies is to periodically inject very small amounts of bee venom. So the technique does seem to be valid.

I am not aware of any reputable medical source recommending treatment for allergies which involves exposure to the allergen. Could you provide a cite?

VOW
12-21-2011, 02:24 AM
It's my understanding that the desensitizing regimen used by allergists in the form of regular "shots" is actually minute doses of the allergic material. However, the dose is precisely measured and controlled, and the patient must remain at the doctor's office for a specific time interval, to be monitored for extreme reaction.

A "do-it-yourself" approach of this method is NOT recommended, unless you carry an Epi-Pen, and have somebody nearby who can administer it.

I don't think "do-it-yourself" appendectomy is recommended, either.


~VOW

phreesh
12-21-2011, 10:37 AM
Allergy Shots (http://www.webmd.com/allergies/guide/shots), where you are injected with small amounts of your allergen over a long period of time are very real and scientifically proven. They may not cure your condition, but can improve it.

Spock
11-20-2012, 07:52 AM
It's been ten years since my last guinea pig died. They were great pets. I've been thinking a lot lately and I really want to buy one again.
But it seems for the past several years I have developed an allergy that I didn't have before. Now, If even get near a guinea pig my face gets swollen red, my nose clogs up, my eyes tear up and I start sneezing uncontrollably for hours.

So, if I were to try some gradual limited exposure, would my body get used to it? Or would I just harm myself even more and make everything worse? I don't know if I can get used to the idea of not being able to hold a guinea pig again. Totally not fair.

I thought about a hamster or a rabbit instead but it's really not the same :(

First you need to make sure that you are indeed allergic to guinea pigs, by visiting your allergist. It is quite possible that you could be allergic to hay, or bedding materials. The latter you can check for yourself, by temporarily eliminating those elements for 1 week, one at a time, and watch for change of your symptoms (or lack of any).

If it turns out that you are indeed allergic to guinea pigs (http://www.guineapigmanual.com/allergic-to-guinea-pigs/), you can commence with immunotherapy (in consulting with your physician/allergist of course).

Napier
11-20-2012, 12:56 PM
I suspect so, as I had a cat allergy and then started rescuing them, and soon was living with a dozen or more. My allergy went away. I figured I had inadvertently done desensitization therapy. But I don't have any proper schooling in the subject.

Jackmannii
11-20-2012, 05:39 PM
Has anyone ever considered the problem of guinea pigs who are allergic to people?

I had a g.p. once who would occasionally do tiny rodent sneezes (...choo!). It never occurred to me that he needed itty-bitty Kleenex or a microdose of Claritin.

CatherineZeta
11-21-2012, 12:49 PM
One of our guinea pigs needed his nose wiped on a regular basis. The vet didn't have any obvious answers as to why- the pig was just susceptible to colds (and it wasn't life threatening- he lived to be 6 years old). An allergy to people would have never crossed my mind.