Do You Have an Allergy to Horses?

Domesticated horses are relatively common animals, and can be seen on most trips to the countryside, at the racetrack, or even at special events such as parades and county fairs. Unlike 100 years ago, however, most of us don’t come into daily contact with horses. Despite this, horse allergy is not that rare, affecting as many as 5% of people with allergies. Horse dander is able to travel long distances in the air and has been found hundreds of yards away from horse stables.

Horse breathing
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Symptoms and Causes

Allergies to horses have been reported for nearly a century, with most people experiencing respiratory symptoms such as allergic rhinitis and asthma as a result. In fact, 50% of people with exposure to horse barns report respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath.

Given the ability of horse dander to cause allergy symptoms, however, it would not be surprising to know that some people also experience urticaria, angioedema, and even anaphylaxis as a result of exposure to horses.

Certain people with dog and cat allergies may be predisposed to having horse allergies. Animal albumins are common allergens, and the albumins found in horses, dogs, and cats can be cross-reactive—meaning that being allergic to one may also prompt allergic symptoms when exposed to another.

Some people with a dog or cat allergy may also experience allergy symptoms when they're exposed to horses.


Treatment of horse allergy is based on the symptoms that a person is experiencing, and is the same as the treatment of allergies caused by other allergic triggers. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) have been shown to be safe and effective for the treatment of horse allergies and offer the only potential cure.

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  2. Mazan MR, Svatek J, Maranda L, et al. Questionnaire assessment of airway symptoms in equine barn personnel. Occup Med. 2009;59:220-5. doi:10.1093/occmed/kqp003