Horse allergy is an allergy to one or all breeds of horses. People with horse allergies are allergic to serum albumin. This is a protein naturally found in the horse’s blood that’s also present in their skin cells or dander. When a person is exposed to horse albumin, it can trigger the immune system to create antibodies known as IgE antibodies. These antibodies trigger an allergic response that can cause mild or severe allergy symptoms.
People who work with horses professionally or personally, as well as those who come in contact with horses, are more likely to have horse allergy symptoms. You may even experience symptoms just walking through an empty stable with no horses present.
Horse Allergy Symptoms
Horse allergy symptoms may include:
- Itchy, watery, and red eyes
- Runny nose
- Facial pressure and pain
- Hives and rashes on the body
- Asthma flare
Symptoms of a horse allergy might appear immediately or be delayed. Asthma symptoms are usually more severe in people with a horse allergy. These include tightness in your chest, tightening of the throat, and wheezing.
The Best Horse Breeds for People with Allergies
The American Bashkir Curly Horse (for short Curly Horse), a rare breed known for its unique curly coat of hair, has been known to be the best horse breed for people with allergies. People who are allergic to horses reported no or fewer symptoms when riding Curly Horses. Other breeds that show reduced allergen levels are Shetland ponies, Icelandic horses, and Gypsy Vanners.
Female horses are also better for people with allergies. The production of major allergens like serum albumin tends to be higher in male horses than in females. Also, stallions have higher horse dander antigens than other breeds of horses.
Allergies Similar or Related to Horse Allergy
Horse allergy is similar to cat and dog allergies. People who are allergic to other animals usually show the same symptoms seen with horse allergies. Furry animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, and ferrets are all known to cause allergies. Birds also cause similar symptoms like asthma.
A bird’s dander is usually invisible and does not get filtered by the lungs, so it makes breathing more difficult. People experience severe wheezing and tightening of the throat. If you believe other animals are causing your allergies, ask an allergist for a full allergy panel and treatment.
Horse Allergy Diagnosis
An allergy specialist, like one from NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, can diagnose an allergy to horses. The most common method of diagnosing a horse allergy is through skin prick testing. Skin prick testing uses diluted amounts of allergens that are applied to the skin with tiny punctures. A positive result will show a raised bump (hive) at the localized area.
When testing for horse allergy with skin prick testing, it takes less than 20 minutes for the results to show. You may experience some itching during the test that will subside shortly. Your allergist will monitor you for more severe symptoms that may arise.
If you have an ongoing skin condition, such as eczema, an allergist may suggest allergy blood testing instead of skin prick testing. Blood tests measure immunoglobulin E (IgE), an antibody your immune system develops in reaction to a specific allergen. They are usually accurate but take longer to deliver results.
Horse Allergy Treatment
The most effective treatment for horse allergies is to avoid horses, stables, and being around people or things that may have come in contact with horses. If this is not possible, be sure to take antihistamines daily. These medications block the effects of the protein that causes allergic reactions to horses. However, antihistamines don’t treat your allergy, only its symptoms.
For asthma-type reactions to horses, you may need an inhaler. This medication that you breathe in helps open up your airways and reduce wheezing. Ask your physician for the best asthma medication to fit your needs.
We also recommend immunotherapy for animal allergies. Also known as allergy shots, this treatment involves exposing you to small doses of horse allergens to allow your body to adjust. Over time, the dose is increased until your body is less likely to react when you’re around a horse. We offer this treatment at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers.