Chickens, like many other animals, can cause allergic reactions in some people. According to National Jewish Health, cells discarded from the skin, urine and saliva of animals with feathers can produce symptoms such as itchy eyes, rashes and a runny nose. Chicken excrement can also cause allergic reactions in some patients.
In addition, allergy to live chickens can worsen the symptoms of conditions such as rhinitis, asthma, and eczema.
Although there are no statistics available to show how many people are allergic to birds, we know that millions of people are allergic to animals. For example, the figures provided by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of American indicate that some 10 million people are allergic to cats.
The best way to deal with an allergy to live chickens is to avoid all contact with birds.
How Allergies Work
The immune system of a person with an allergy to live chickens or other animals reacts to an "invasion" of foreign particles (such as chicken skin cells or saliva) by generating antibodies called IgE. IgE antibodies interact with the allergen (the substance that causes the reaction) and with the body's immune cells. These immune cells, called mast cells, release chemicals such as histamine and other inflammatory chemicals, which produce the symptoms of allergy.
In most cases, chicken allergy develops during childhood. However, it is possible to develop allergy as an adult. In some cases, allergies develop only after repeated exposure to birds. The most likely routes for chicken allergens to enter the body are inhalation through the nose and direct contact with the skin.
Management and treatment of chicken allergies
The best way to deal with an allergy to live chickens is to avoid all contact with the birds. If that is impossible, an allergist or other specialist can advise you on ways to relieve your symptoms. The allergist may recommend medications, such as antihistamines, nasal sprays or corticosteroids. Minimize contact with airborne particles that trigger chicken allergies, using a mask or respirator and protective clothing when working with animals.
Symptoms of allergy to animals can also be significantly reduced after an immunotherapy course or allergy shots, which will increase your resistance to allergens. This approach is best to achieve long-term relief of allergy symptoms caused by a well-identified allergen.
About the author
Boyan Hadjiev, Medical Doctor, has been a practicing physician for five years.He is double certified in Internal Medicine, (2003), and Allergy and Immunology, (2005).
Dr. Hadjiev graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in biology and a doctorate in medicine from the Cleveland Clinical Case Management School of Medicine.