My Daughter’s Experience With an Allergy to Horses

Last updated: December 2022

I attended the annual American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) conference in Louisville, Kentucky, this year. Usually, when I go to a conference, I only have time to go from the airport to the conference hotel and back to the airport again. But this time, the president of ACAAI invited me to a reception at Churchill Downs. I'd never been there, so I decided to go.

Visiting the Churchill Downs Racetrack

I met my colleagues at the reception and began chatting about horses as we overlooked the race track. One of my colleagues used to run a ranch with horses, and she was telling us the good, bad, and ugly sides of horses and horse racing.

I shared that my daughter wanted to learn how to ride horses when she was little. It seems like most little girls go through the "horsey" or the unicorn phase. My daughter was no different. My daughter's room was full of horses: horse-themed bedding, clothing hook, and a wallpaper picket fence around her room.

My daughter's allergy to horses

My daughter has multiple allergies. Sadly, when she had an allergy skin test, it determined that she was allergic to basically everything living: except for rats. Her allergy shot nurse smirked and said, "Well, it looks like her only option for a pet is a rat!"

Nope, nope, nope.

Still, my daughter had her heart set on horseback riding lessons, and we asked our allergy doctor if he thought she could try riding lessons. He said although we know what her skin test shows, she'll have to see how bad her allergies flare when she is around horses.

Pursuing horseback riding lessons with allergies

My daughter begged for horseback riding lessons, so we decided to try a few classes and see if she liked them. We finally saved enough money to provide a few lessons for my daughter. We live out West, so our arenas don't look anything like Churchill Downs. We don't wear fancy hats and sit in boxes to watch the races. Instead, we wear blue jeans and cowboy boots and have arenas in sparsely populated areas surrounded by tumbleweeds. Seriously.

Severe allergy symptoms after the lesson

After her first lesson, she started wheezing, sneezing and coughing. We left the arena and drove home to bathe her to remove all the horse dander from her hair.

She wanted to try lessons again the following week, so our allergist said we could also give her an antihistamine in addition to her allergy pills, allergy nose spray, and allergy shots.

Taking a new allergy management approach

So, I ensured she had her allergy meds and her albuterol inhaler, and we headed to the arena for round 2. I had brought along an extra clean shirt, so after her lesson, I changed her shirt and wiped her face with a baby wipe to remove most of the horse dander. We quickly made our way to the interstate to get home to get her in the bathtub.

She still wheezed, sneezed, and coughed the whole way home - even after I gave her a puff of her Albuterol inhaler. "Argh!"

Allergies get in the way

She was discouraged because she knew she couldn't pursue horseback riding. Her horse allergy was too severe. To make matters worse, her best friend could ride without having allergies or an asthma attack. And her best friend ended up getting her own horse. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

Allergies ruin a lot of things in life. Has anyone else wanted to ride horses, but couldn't, thanks to allergies and asthma?

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