If you or a member of your family, or visiting friends, start coughing and sneezing when around your guinea pigs, they're probably allergic to them. Other symptoms of allergies are rashes, itchy eyes, and wheezy, asthmatic problems. If you’re the one suffering from these symptoms, have had your guinea pigs for a while and these symptoms are a new problem, then it could still be an allergy - owners have been known to develop these reactions as a result of continued exposure to allergens throughout pet ownership.
Allergies are not caused by guinea pig hair, but by substances excreted by the animal
It’s a common misconception that guinea pig’s hair is the source of the allergic reaction, which actually is not the case. The allergens (materials that you are allergic to) are contained within guinea pig saliva, urine and gland secretions. As such, buying a hairless guinea pig won’t lead to an absence of allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic guinea pigs that will produce absolutely no allergic reaction do not exist.
Don’t despair - there are things that can be done. First off you’ll need to see an allergist to be tested for a guinea pig allergy to make sure it’s actually your pets that are producing these symptoms, rather than things such as dust or hay. If the results come back negative, try removing some of the things that could be causing these reactions. For example, you could temporarily swap to a different type of bedding (not straw - this often scratches guinea pigs' eyes) and see if that makes a difference.
If the test comes back positive, then below are some suggestions to help you reduce the effect of the allergens on your body:
- Keep your guinea pigs out of areas that you’re in on a regular basis. We don’t recommend having guinea pigs in places such as bedrooms, and particularly if you’re allergic to them then this is strongly advised against.
- Try to avoid directly touching your guinea pigs. You can use towels for playtime, or use gloves to prevent skin-to-hair contact.
- Do your best to stop your pet from getting on your furniture and upholstery. If you have guinea pigs living free range in your house, it might be time to limit them to a particular room or area to prevent allergens spreading all over your house.
- When cleaning out your guinea pigs, wear rubber gloves and a mask. Allergens will likely collect where your guinea pigs sleep, so it’s advisable to get someone who isn’t allergic to these animals to clean out this space for you.
- Thoroughly wash your clothes and hands after having contact with your pet or it’s hutch.