What is a mouse allergy (and how to know if you have one)?

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on June 6, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Allergies can be an incredible pain. They can keep you from living your life to its fullest and potentially cause severe symptoms.

You can potentially develop allergies to various kinds of animals, including mice. Whether you are dealing with pests in your attic or want to keep mice as pets, mouse allergies can pose a health risk. Learn more about mouse allergies, the symptoms of this allergy, and whether to consider taking an allergy test below.

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What is a mouse allergy?

Mouse allergies are caused by a protein that is found in substances like mouse urine. Mouse allergies actually became apparent in lab settings when some researchers exhibited allergic symptoms while handling mice in their studies. Laboratory animal allergy (LAA) eventually became a common condition, reportedly affecting anywhere from 11 to 44 percent of people working with mice and rats.

Of course, you don’t need to be in a lab or even necessarily handle a mouse to experience an allergic response. You don’t even need to be exposed to a mouse to experience symptoms. The allergen can easily stick to dust particles and become airborne. Mice also shed their dead skin cells and hair, both of which can also enter your airspace.

Mouse allergy symptoms

A mouse allergen is often high on the list of the most common indoor airborne allergens. For those without a mouse allergy, the protein is recognized as harmless by your immune system. However, those who are allergic have an overactive immune system. Exposure to the protein causes the immune system to leap into action, but with no true threat to attack, the immune cells mistakenly harm healthy cells and tissue, resulting in a variety of symptoms.

Mouse allergies are specifically associated with allergic asthma, a form of asthma that is specifically triggered by allergens. Allergic asthma is the most common type of asthma, affecting about 60 percent of all cases. Asthma is a condition characterized by narrowing and swelling in your airways. This can manifest as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Wheezing noises when exhaling
  • Sleep problems caused by coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
  • Coughing or wheezing that gets worse with the cold or flu

For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance, but for others, asthma can be potentially life-threatening.

Mouse allergies can also lead to allergic rhinitis, sometimes known as hay fever. These are general allergic symptoms similar to seasonal allergies. Hay fever symptoms include:

  • Itching in the mouth, eyes, nose, and ears
  • Sinus pain and congestion
  • Runny, stuffy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Coughing
  • Red, watery eyes

Managing a mouse allergy

If you have an allergic response while you are dealing with an unwanted rodent in your crawlspace, the best first step is to consult your local pest control to deal with the problem. That may include sealing any cracks and holes, on top of actually removing the animals from your home.

If you have a mouse allergy and keep the rodents as pets, take extra steps to keep allergens to a minimum, including:

  • Keeping your mouse’s cage clean
  • Vacuuming frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter
  • Investing in an air purifier
  • Washing your hands with soap and water after handling to prevent transferring allergens to your eyes or nose

It may also be a good idea to see an allergist or doctor, who can prescribe allergy medication to minimize any allergic reactions.

If you aren’t sure of what's behind your allergies, it may be a good idea to get tested to make sure. Everlywell offers an effective at-home allergy testing kit that allows you to test for 40 common indoor and outdoor allergens. The test can be performed in the comfort of your own home, and once you have your results, you can talk to your healthcare provider to determine what to do next.


What does hypoallergenic mean?

Types of cats considered hypoallergenic

What dogs are considered hypoallergenic?


References

1. Pet Allergens. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. URL. Accessed June 6, 2021.

2. Bush RK. Assessment and treatment of laboratory animal allergy. ILAR J. 2001;42(1):55-64. doi: 10.1093/ilar.42.1.55

3. Asthma - Symptoms and Causes. Mayo Clinic. URl. Accessed June 6, 2021.

4. Hay fever. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed June 6, 2021.

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