Do You Have an Allergy to Horses?

Domesticated horses can be seen on most trips to the countryside, at the racetrack, or at special events such as parades and county fairs. Horses are among the most common domesticated animals, but daily contact with horses is not as common as it was 100 years ago. That's why many people who are allergic to horses might not realize it. Horse allergies affect 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 at least once within the past year.

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 a horse allergy is based on the specific symptoms and their severity. The medical management is the same as that of allergies caused by other allergic triggers.

Avoidance can be a reasonable option for some people. And if you have an unexpected exposure that causes you to experience mild symptoms, an over-the-counter antihistamine may alleviate your symptoms.

For treatment of severe anaphylaxis, you would need emergency medical attention. If you carry an epi-pen with you due to a history of severe allergic reactions, you would need an immediate injection of this treatment while you're waiting for emergency responders to arrive.

Allergy shots (immunotherapy) were shown in one study to be safe and effective for the treatment of horse allergies and offer the only potential cure; additional research is needed to better understand how people with horse allergies might benefit from allergen immunotherapy.

2 Sources
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  1. Arseneau AM, Hrabak TM, Waibel KH. Inhalant horse allergens and allergies: a review of the literature. Mil Med. 2012;177(7):877-82. doi:10.7205/milmed-d-12-00038

  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

By Daniel More, MD
Daniel More, MD, is a board-certified allergist and clinical immunologist. He is an assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and currently practices at Central Coast Allergy and Asthma in Salinas, California.