How to Take Control of a Horse Allergy

Published: July 11, 2016

Q. My daughter loves horseback riding, but has developed an allergy to horses. This ranges from congestion and eye symptoms to hives on her hands sometimes if she touches a horse. Is there any therapy that would help?

Dr. Bassett: The conundrum is to have your daughter enjoy her pastime of riding and still be safe and symptom-free. There is no panacea here with horse allergy, though pre-medication may help allergic eye, nasal and skin symptoms.

Getting a proper assessment from an allergist for horse allergy is an important step. Horse dander can be a major allergy trigger. Over-the-counter and prescription allergy treatments are not always successful in reducing or preventing allergy and/or asthma episodes. For some people, strict avoidance of horses may be necessary.

In a U.K. study, about 1 to 2 percent of children were estimated to be sensitive to horse allergen. The most prominent symptoms included watery, red and itchy eyes as well as nasal symptoms and asthma. Hives were also reported. There are also some case reports of horse allergy triggering anaphylaxis in patients with the allergy who also have asthma.

Horse Allergy: Airborne Risks

Allergy to horses isn’t as widely researched as allergies to household pets like cats and dogs. However, one study found that horses are able to produce large amount of airborne allergens, particularly in and around stables.

The management of horse allergy is based on the following:
– Avoidance measures.
– Pre-treatment with appropriate allergy and asthma medicines.
– and lastly, allergy immunotherapy (allergy shots) for a more permanent treatment.

Dr. Clifford Bassett, allergist and asthma specialist, is the Medical Director of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York (; Twitter @allergyreliefny). He is on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and is also the author of The New Allergy Solution: Supercharge Resistance, Slash Medication, Stop Suffering.

Related Reading: 

All About Cat and Dog Allergies
Can Cat Allergy Develop as an Adult?

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