According to Merriam-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.
Early symptoms of an allergy reaction include nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing, red or irritated eyes, and hives. More severe symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. In some cases, asthma can develop.
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 12 months of exposure, but occasionally, reactions take years to develop.
Most reactions are caused by animal proteins found in saliva, dander, and urine. Mice and rats are studied most frequently, and more allergies to these animals are reported than others. However, any animal used in research can be a potential source of allergic symptoms.
- Minimize exposure to animal dander, urine, and saliva
- Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your eyes and face in the work area
- Keep animal cages clean, and clean them in dedicated areas
- When working with animals, cover street clothes with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as 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
- Make sure the work area is adequately ventilated
Additional Occupational Health Resources