You commonly encounter pet allergies to dogs and cats, but people may suffer from allergies to other pets as well. Popular pets due to their affordability, small size and docile nature, hamsters can cause allergic reactions in people from either their dander or their bites. Hamster allergies most commonly develop in laboratory workers who handle the animals constantly.
People allergic to hamster dander may experience itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. More serious dander allergies can cause painful, persistent coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing. Skin rashes after encountering or handling a hamster are possible, too.
Severe hamster allergies can cause anaphylactic shock. People who experience anaphylaxis may suffer from itching of the face initially, followed by more dangerous symptoms such as difficulty breathing, vomiting and swelling.
People bitten by a hamster may experience a mild to severe allergic reaction to the hamster's saliva. Hamster bite allergies also can cause anaphylaxis, although symptoms from a hamster bite may present more rapidly than from hamster dander.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A doctor may perform a scratch test to determine if someone is allergic to hamsters. After the doctor tests an area of skin on the patient's arm or back, the patient may experience redness or swelling within 20 minutes.
Hamster owners should consult an allergist if they are allergic to their pets, and those with severe allergies should not encounter or handle hamsters. The doctor may recommend a trial of antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Claritin.
Hamster owners with mild allergies should use an air cleaner and filter in their home. They also can cover the home's vents with cheese cloth to act as a filter. The hamster shouldn't be allowed to explore rooms with rugs but rather rooms with hardwood or tile floors to avoid hamster dander becoming trapped. Allergic hamster owners should limit their exposure to their hamster as much as possible.
If a person allergic to hamsters experiences anaphylactic shock, a shot of epinephrine, or adrenaline, will stabilize blood pressure and ease breathing difficulties. People who suffer from severe hamster allergies may be permitted to carry a self-treatment shot of epinephrine for emergencies. Even when a shot of epinephrine is delivered, however, the afflicted person must still seek medical attention because the shot's effects don't last long and supplemental treatment is required.