Pet reptile food – a cause of allergy
The growing popularity of reptiles as pets is spawning a new source of allergens in the home — the grasshoppers used to feed them.
Allergy researchers warn that parents may buy snakes or bearded dragons for children in a bid to avoid allergies from furry pets such as cats and dogs, but to no avail.
While the reptiles themselves may pose a risk of Salmonella and other infection, their diet, such as grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, has been associated with sensitisation and disease including asthma.
They give the case of an 8-year-old boy in Vienna who developed wheeze and swelling in his throat, apparently arising from handling a pet bearded dragon which was fed live grasshoppers.
Four years after the dragon was given away, the boy had a severe asthma attack when re-exposed to the substances that caused the allergy.
Textiles and furniture in the home can become contaminated with leftovers from the insect feed, including from the reptiles’ faeces, the researchers say.
There is also evidence of people having cross-reactivity to different species of insects. Cross-reactivity happens when someone reacts to a substance similar to one they are allergic to, because it has a similar chemical structure. For example, someone allergic to cow’s milk may react to goat’s milk.
Last Reviewed: 02/09/2015
Jensen-Jarolim E, et al. Caution: Reptile pets shuttle grasshopper allergy and asthma into homes. World Allergy Organ J 2015; 8:24 doi:10.1186/s40413-015-0072-1
Asthma: checklist of common triggers
See our checklist of common asthma triggers (a trigger is anything that brings on or aggravates asthma symptoms).
Can pets at home protect children from allergies?
A study looked at whether having dogs and cats around a baby can help their immune system develop and reduce their risk of developing allergies.
Allergic rhinitis - hay fever
Rhinitis means inflammation of the lining of the nose. Allergic rhinitis means that this inflammation is caused by an allergy.
Asthma in children
Asthma is relatively common in children. Find out about the symptoms, causes, triggers, diagnosis and treatments.
Asthma and dairy foods
This special feature explores the asthma and dairy foods debate. Find out if milk is safe for your child with asthma.