Rodent allergy is an allergy to mice, rats, hamsters, and guinea pigs. People with rodent allergies are allergic to the rodent’s urine, saliva, or skin. Many inner-city residents are exposed to and allergic to rodents. Even if the rodent is not around, hair, urine, and fecal allergens may remain and can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Research has found rodent allergens in 82% of U.S. homes.
Housing environments in urban areas are more likely to have high levels of rodents than suburban homes. However, rodents can infest homes, schools, hospitals, stores, and restaurants anywhere, causing year-round symptoms. It’s important to avoid rodents when possible to avoid allergy symptoms.
Rodent Allergy Symptoms
Most studies focus on how rodent allergens exacerbate asthma symptoms, leading to reduced lung function. However, allergic individuals may also experience:
- Runny nose
- Itchy eyes, mouth, or skin
- Watery eyes
Symptoms of a rodent allergy might appear immediately or be delayed. Asthma symptoms are usually more severe in people with a rodent allergy. These include tightness in your chest, tightening of the throat, and wheezing.
Allergies Similar or Related to Rodent Allergy
People with a rodent allergy may also experience symptoms when exposed to other small animals such as rabbits, beavers, muskrats, porcupines, woodchucks, chipmunks, squirrels, prairie dogs, marmots, chinchillas, voles, lemmings, and others. This is called cross-reactivity and occurs when your body’s immune system identifies the proteins, or components, in different substances as being structurally similar or biologically related, thus triggering a response.
Rodent allergy symptoms also resemble cat allergy symptoms. Both allergies trigger severe asthma symptoms and warrant immediate treatment. You should visit an allergist for a personalized treatment plan to prevent allergy symptoms.
Rodent Allergy Diagnosis
An allergy specialist, like one from NY Allergy & Sinus Centers, can diagnose an allergy to rodents. The most common method of diagnosing a rodent 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 rodent 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.
Rodent Allergy Treatment
The most effective treatment for rodent allergies is to avoid all rodents. If this is not possible, be sure to take antihistamines daily. These medications block the effects of the protein that causes allergic reactions to rodents. However, antihistamines don’t treat your allergy, only its symptoms.
For asthma-type reactions to rodents, you will need an inhaler. Inhalers help 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 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 rodents. We offer this treatment at NY Allergy & Sinus Centers.