Laboratory Animal Allergy (LAA) - OHS Information Sheet
Monash University is committed to providing staff and students with a healthy and safe environment for work and study.
What is a Laboratory Animal Allergy (LAA)?
An allergy is an exaggerated reaction by the body's immune system, most frequently to proteins. In the case of a laboratory animal allergy, the proteins most commonly associated with allergic reactions are present in animal urine, saliva, and dander.
Symptoms of LAA may include:
- Rashes and itchiness of the skin
- Watering and redness of the eyes
- Sneezing, dry and sore throat
- Cough with asthma-like symptoms
Anyone who has regular contact with laboratory animals has the potential to develop allergies to them. Although workers who have a history of asthma, seasonal allergies and dermatitis are at increased risk, individuals with no prior history of allergies and only brief exposures at work can also develop allergic reactions to laboratory animals. Most workers who develop allergic reactions to laboratory animals will do so within one to two years of starting to work with them.
Important considerations to note:
- Continued exposure may increase the severity of symptoms.
- Infrequently, sensitisation may occur and this can pose a significant health risk.
- Early contact with the Occupational Health Team is required.
Which laboratory animals are associated with allergic reactions?
Most species of animals used in research have been identified as a source of allergy symptoms. Because mice and rats are the animals most frequently used in research studies, there are more reported allergies to rodents than any other laboratory animals.
What can be done to reduce the risk of developing an allergic reaction to laboratory animals?
The best approach for reducing the likelihood of developing an allergic reaction is to eliminate or minimise exposure to the proteins found in animal urine, saliva and dander. A comprehensive risk assessment and implementation of appropriate control measures should be undertaken prior to working with animals.
Guiding documentation is available in Using Biologicals and Animals at Monash University and the Risk Management Program.
Consideration of the following points may assist in this process:
- Reduce the frequency and time spent with animals in high-density rooms.
- Reduce airborne allergens when cleaning cages (e.g. wet cleaning).
- Ensure adequate ventilation.
- Adhere to safe work instructions.
- Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Personal protective equipment
A gown, goggles and gloves should be worn when handling animals or changing cages.
Respiratory protection, available in a variety of types, may be necessary to reduce exposure to airborne allergens. Advice on suitable and effective respiratory protection should be sought from Occupational Health and Safety.
1Although engineering controls can be useful in reducing exposure to animal allergens, airborne levels generated on direct contact with animals and bedding materials can still be significant. Respiratory protection may be necessary to reduce exposure and must be fitted correctly. Different types of respiratory protection may be required for different exposure types and individuals. Advice on suitable and effective respiratory protection should be sought from OH&S.
For additional information, contact the Occupational Health team:
- Telephone: 990 51014
- Email: BPD-OHNC@monash.edu