Call to My Post…About My Horse Allergy

Blog2Horses are on stage this week with the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, so let’s talk horse allergies.

Although most people with horse allergies will make a trip to the track without any problems, those who get too close to the action can experience symptoms. Common reactions to horses include sneezing, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes and more severe symptoms can include wheezing, chest tightness, hives and swelling.

My name is Derek, and I have horse allergies. I’ve known I was allergic to horses since I was a child, but I never spent much time up close and personal with them. I can recall one symptomatic episode a few years back when, at the end of my residency graduation ceremony at the Red Mile in Lexington, I toured the horse stables. My nose was a sneezy, runny mess within minutes.

There is significantly less known about horse allergies compared to other common pets. Approximately 3% of Americans share my allergy to horses. A study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in February of 2012 found that 3.2% of children age 4 had detectable horse allergic antibodies and that number rose to 6.7% by age 8. A study in Occupational Medicine in 2009 estimated that 50% of those regularly exposed to horse barns have symptoms! A Swedish study published in 2009 in the International Archives of Allergy and Immunology recommended susceptible people keep at least 500 meters (about 1/3 of a mile) between stables and their homes. They also noted that the level of allergen detection at 45 meters was only 1% of the level detected at a distance of 1 meter.

Allergenic proteins are named after the genus species. For horses or Equus caballus, there are five named proteins, Equ c 1 through Equ c 5. Some horse proteins have similar structures as cat, dog, rabbit and rodent proteins explaining why some sufferers have issues with other animals as well.

Treatment advice if you are a sufferer like me? Avoidance, medications (OTC and/or prescription) and allergy shots. Now off to the races!

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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to create a doctor-patient relationship with any reader. If you need personalized medical advice, contact your primary care physician or other physician in your community.

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2 responses to “Call to My Post…About My Horse Allergy

  1. Are horse allergies ever a concern because anti-venom can be made using horses? Or is that one of those cases where needing an anti-venom supercedes the potential allergy reaction?

  2. I think most medications that use horse serum or antibodies have protocols to assess horse allergy before administration. I am unsure of the cross reactivity of those medications with inhalant horse allergies. Under the guidance of an allergist and pharmacist, a desensitization protocol could be considered on an individual basis if the benefit outweighed the risk.

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