Skip Navigation
Oklahoma State University

Animal Allergies and What It Means For You

What is an Allergy?

According to Merrian-Webster an allergy is an exaggerated or pathological immunological reaction to substances, situations or physical states that are without comparable effect on the average individual. 

What are the Symptoms?

Early symptoms of an allergy include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, red irritated eyes and hives.  More severe symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.  Some personnel can develop asthma.   

Who is at Risk?

Statistically one out of every five people who work with animals will develop allergic symptoms.  Employees that have a history of allergies to animals, animal handlers and cage maintainers are at a higher risk of developing allergies. 

Most reactions occur within the first twelve months of exposure.  Occasionally, reactions can take years to develop.   

Which Animals are Associated with Allergic Reactions?

Most reactions are caused by animal proteins found in saliva, dander, and urine.  Mice and rats are studied most frequently, more allergies to these animals are reported than others. However, any animal used in research can be a potential source of allergic symptoms.

Prevention Tips

The best method to reduce developing an allergic reaction is to minimize exposure to proteins found in dander, urine, and saliva.

  • Wash your hands frequently; avoid touching your eyes and face.
  • Keep animal cages clean, and clean them in dedicated areas.
  • When working with animals, cover your street clothes with PPE: lab coats, gloves, and masks.
  • Dispose of or remove PPE when leaving the work area.
  • When possible, perform animal manipulations in a chemical fume hood, biosafety cabinet, or downdraft table.
  • When not working in a hood, make sure the work area is adequately ventilated.

For any questions regarding pre-existing animal allergies or newly developed allergies, please contact UHS at 4-7665 and EHS at 4-7241.