Most of us have allergies to something, whether it be dust, animal dander, or pollen. But what if you’re allergic to guinea pigs? You may feel like your life is over because you can’t live with these furry little critters anymore!
Or can you?
I scoured Internet forums and Facebook groups looking for a response to my question, “How do you live with your guinea pig allergies?”
Specifically, I investigated:
- How many people rehomed their piggies
- What caused the allergies (e.g. dander, hay, urine)
- Percentage of people who used different solutions
- Less commonly known solutions to guinea pig allergy issues
Many people have guinea pig allergies and are looking for ways to live with it. The good news is there are steps you can take to deal with it!
In this blog post we’ll highlight 12 terrific tips to help you live with your guinea pig allergies.
What’s Everyone Else Doing About Their Guinea Pig Allergies?
I was able to find information from 296 guinea pig pet parents to better understand how people are able to manage their allergies with their piggies.
I was shocked to learn that 97.6% (289) of the respondents decided to keep their furry friends instead of getting rid of them.
Only 2.4% (7) of people from my survey rehomed their piggies. This was either due to the severity of the allergic reaction (like impromptu trips to the emergency room) or the inability to find a solution to their allergy symptoms.
So what about the allergy stricken pet parents who kept their little friends?
Well, they got creative.
Their allergy treatments solutions ranged from the common place, such as washing your hands after handline your piggies, to more unusual solutions like smearing your nostrils with Vaseline.
This blog post will explain everything in detail.
All that to say is, there’s hope for you if you want (or already have) a piggie, and you’re allergic to your little friends. All you need is a little ingenuity and creativity, and you may not have to give up your guinea pig after all.
The first tip to living with guinea pig allergies is…
1. Rule Out Other Allergens
If you suspect you might have an allergy to guinea pigs, the first thing you should do is go see an allergist. Allergists treat allergies and asthma.
An allergist can help figure out if a guinea pig is causing your allergies and tell you how treat the symptoms. Your allergist will give you tests to see if it’s your piggie or something else causing you to have allergies.
While guinea pigs may not cause a severe allergic reaction for everyone, this is one more reason to visit an allergist and work out a plan specifically tailored for you so that your allergies are manageable without risking life-threatening symptoms.
Some people will visit (or volunteer) at an animal shelter or rescue to see if they have guinea pig allergies without taking the risk of owning one. Or you can test your sensitivity by having a play date with the piggies of a friend or relative.
Here’s the deal:
A visit to the allergist is your best line of defense to see you have a guinea pig allergy – as well as your safest course of action.
Besides, it’s not always your furry friends that cause the reaction. More often, it’s hay that’s to blame.
And the only way you’ll know for sure is if you see an allergist.
2. Switch Hays
About 74% (219) respondents stated that they were allergic to hay or to the hay and the piggies.
According to the survey, Timothy hay is the worse offender for guinea pig allergies. Using another type of hay can help reduce the allergen load in your environment.
Orchard hay is a popular alternative with 42.% (93) saying that using it reduced or got rid of their allergy symptoms. Meadow, Oat, and Bermuda are other possible options.
If you’re looking for a good brand, try this one from Amazon:
Some guinea pig owners have also found success by doing the following:
- Buy hay from local farms if you can. They can tell you when the hay was cut. This could be helpful if you’re allergic to very old hay.
- Purchase bales of hay. That prevents the hay from being spread throughout your house. Just pull chunks of hay from the bales when you need it. Fluff it out and then give it to your piggies. This will minimize the amount of allergens in your house.
- Use hay bags. Instead of tossing the hay around, place it in a hay bag for your piggies to enjoy. If there’s allergens in the area, then they will not spread inside your living space.
This tips might worth a try if hay is the main the culprit in causing you allergies.
3. Use High Quality Air Purifiers
14.5% (43) of the pet parents used air purifiers to help them with managing their allergies.
But, air purifiers weren’t used alone. Everyone who used air purifiers also used a combination of other methods to help their allergies.
The people who used air purifiers gave a few tips for success :
- Buy more than one air purifier if you can. Ideally you want one for each room that your piggie occupies. But, if you can only afford one, stick it in the room where your little friends spend most of their time.
- Make sure it’s a HEPA air purifier. Don’t skimp on quality if you want good results from the device.
- Read the manual carefully. Be sure to clean the filters twice as often as necessary. Follow all maintenance instructions, so your purifiers can work their magic.
In addition to removing allergens from the air, an added bonus to using an air purifier is that it can helps control smell. If you go the air purifier route, get ready to enjoy fresher, cleaner air that doesn’t make you sneeze.
4. Change Your Bedding
Only 2 or 3 respondents (less than 1%) mentioned that using a different type of bedding with their guinea pigs helped their allergies.
I think the tip is worth mentioning, because it’s one of the obvious things that people are likely to overlook.
Let’s say that you’re allergic to dust and grass. If so, you might want to avoid the following types of bedding:
- Pine wood shavings
- Aspen wood shavings
- Wood pellets
Steer towards beddings that are fabric based and can be washed easily. Consider using bedding like fleece or chenille bath mats for their bedding instead of hay.
5. Use Vaseline
Only 1 respondent mentioned that applying Vaseline to your nostrils before handling your guinea pigs would help with the allergic reaction.
Naturally, I was intrigued, so I did some fact checking.
Apparently, it’s a thing:
If you’re in a situation where you’re going to be around air-borne allergens, give this method a try.
Apply a thin layer of Aquaphor or Vaseline around the edge of your nose to “trap” the allergens and keep them from getting inside your nose.
This won’t help if you have a skin sensitivity to your piggies, but it should give you some relief if your reaction is more respiratory-based. (Source)
6. Whip Out That Protective Gear
In my experience, some of the best ways to live with guinea pig allergies is by using protective gear – especially if you get skin rashes.
You might find that you generally only get a reaction when your skin makes contact with hay or guinea pigs.
20.6% of the respondents use this tactic to keep their allergic reactions to a minimum.
It’s one of the easiest ways to deal with guinea pig allergies. All you have to do is look around the house to find items to cover yourself or your little friends.
Protective gear that people reporting using include:
- dust masks
- an apron
- long-sleeved shirts
- turtle necks
- guinea pig cozie
As long as you wash (or wipe off) your gear after interacting with your guinea pig or their bedding, you’re good-to-go.
7. Medications Can Help
Modern medicine is a beautiful things. And there are dozens of medications that can help to reduce the symptoms of guinea pig allergies.
In fact, 33.8% of people surveyed used some sort of medication to help deal with their guinea pig allergies. There wasn’t a clear pattern of what people used. But, every main sort of allergy medication was represented in the survey, including:
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines work by blocking histamine, which is the chemical responsible for allergic reactions.
- Decongestants: These help to shrink swollen tissues in your body which can lead to less congestion and shorter inflammation.
- Nasal Sprays: Nasals sprays are similar to antihistamines but they work by reducing swelling within the nose and opening.
- Topical Antihistamine Creams: If you have a bad skin reaction to guinea pigs, then using an allergy cream might be the way to go.
- Allergy Shots: Allergy shots are a method of immunotherapy for people with allergies. They allow your immune system to gradually be exposed to the specific substances they’re allergic to and train it to not react to the allergen. This may involve going into your allergist’s office several times over the course of many years depending on how severe your allergies are.
The best thing about these medications is that many are available over-the counter. They’re usually easy enough for any adult to use, regardless of age or experience with medicines.
8. Wash Up
This is another obvious one, but worth mentioning, because it’s so easily overlooked.
Some people in the survey said that they showered or washed their hands with soap and water after they played with their furry friends. About 15.2% used this method.
If you have guinea pig allergies wash your hands and exposed skin (with soap and water) as soon as possible after playing with your little friends or handling their bedding and toys.
Don’t touch anything else until you’ve had a chance to wash yourself. That way you won’t spread guinea pig allergens to other surfaces.
9. Find Alternate Housing
Roughly 4.4% of survey participants switched the location of their guinea pig’s hay and housing, which allowed them to live with guinea pig allergies.
Keep the following suggestions in mind:
- Don’t let your piggies roam throughout your house. If you’re allergic to your piggies, you don’t want just let your piggie leave a trail of allergens everywhere. Limit the exposure to the allergens by keeping your little friend in one room. This might make it easier for you to live with your pet.
- Relocate your little friends to an outdoor hutch and run. To do this safely, insulation and predator-proof housing are required to keep your little friends outdoors. They need protection from wind, cold, wet conditions, and full sun. This is only possible for people who can afford the investment in both equipment and time.
- Avoid putting putting your the guinea pig cage in high-traffic zones. The best way to minimize your contact with your pig’s hair is to house it in a designated area that can be avoided. Do not put its housing near common spaces such as the living room or kitchen, and also avoid keeping it close to areas like bedrooms.
10. Keep Your Distance
This allergy-reduction tactic wasn’t very popular. Only 0.7% of respondents said that they did this to help their allergies.
Avoid holding your little friends close to your face and neck. Those seem to be the most common areas of skin contact that cause allergic reactions.
Instead of picking them up, there are other things you can do to interact with your piggies, such as:
- To socialize my pigs, I hand fed them everything.
- I also would park myself right next to my cage with a book.
- Spread treats on the floor for your piggies to find.
- Set up an obstacle course for them to explore and enjoy the show!
11. Clean Like Crazy
Increasing the frequency and thoroughness of cleaning your piggie’s cage can work wonders with allergies. 6.1% of the survey respondents increased their cleaning to help decrease the allergens that were bothering them.
Consider adding the following tasks to your guinea pig duties:
- Set aside two days a week to thoroughly clean the cage. Disinfect any toys and washing fabrics that are in your guinea pig’s habitat. Wipe the cage down thoroughly with
- Before and after feeding hay or performing cage cleaning, run a humidifier for an hour. The moisture will weigh down any particles in the air that aggravate your allergies.
- Wear gloves and goggles when cleaning your guinea pig’s cage.
- If possible, clean your guinea pig’s cage outside or in a well-ventilated area to prevent the guinea pig’s allergens from becoming airborne and sticking around in the house.
- Vacuum like you’ve lost your mind (but in a good way). Hepa filters are strongly encouraged. You want a reliable vacuum that will suck up as much dust and dander as possible.
12. Call For Backup
If all else fails, call for backup! 3.4% of pet parents (with very severe) allergies aren’t the primary caretaker of their piggies.
Consider who can help take care of your little friends, if you really need to avoid them as much as possible (but don’t want to rehome them).
Ask your spouse or a friend without allergies to take care of your piggies.. Ask other people who live or work with you if they would be willing to take over the responsibilities.
Frequently Asked Questions About Guinea Pigs And Allergies
What Happens If You’re Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
If you’re allergic to your guinea pig, you will probably have the following symptoms:
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Sneezing or coughing
- Itchy eyes or nose
- Red, swollen, watery eyes
If you notice that your symptoms are severe or you have shortness of breath or vomiting, get to the emergency room right away.
How Can I Stop Being Allergic to Guinea Pigs?
There’s no foolproof way to stop being allergic to guinea pigs. But, there are several methods can treat and reduce your symptoms. See an allergist about allergy shots. Wear protective clothing and install a HEPA air purifier. Consider increasing your cage cleaning schedule and switching the type of hay that you feed your guinea pigs.
Are There Hypoallergenic Guinea Pigs?
Unfortunately, hypoallergenic guinea pigs don’t exist. Contrary to popular belief, a hairless guinea pig isn’t hypoallergenic either. If your pet is warm-blooded, then they are going to emit allergens like all other mammals. Guinea pigs produce proteins that end up in their dander, urine, and saliva. Those are the reasons why people with sensitive immune systems have allergic reactions to guinea pigs.
How To Live With Guinea Pig Allergies In A Nutshell
If you’re still determined to get a pet guinea pig despite your allergies, then what can you do?
Well, there are many things that can be done. The key is figuring out which of these solutions will work for your situation depending on the severity of your allergy or sensitivity levels.
If you want to give a pet guinea pig a try but have allergies, then here are some tips on how to live with them:
- See an allergist to rule out other allergens.
- Switch hays
- Use a HEPA air purifier
- Change bedding
- Use Vaseline
- Put on protective gear
- Take medications
- Wash up
- Find alternative housing
- Keep your distance
- Clean like crazy
- Get help with your guinea pig duties
It’s not easy dealing with guinea pig allergy triggers either but hopefully our tips will help.