Allergy / Respiratory Problems due to Dust

Help Support Chins & Hedgies:

Zabby

Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2009
Messages
19
Hello. I've been inactive on these forums for a long time, but I could really use some advice. I have three male bonded chinchillas that share a large cage which is kept in my bedroom. About a year ago I noticed I started having slight allergies to chinchilla dust (Blue Cloud). It wasn't a big deal for awhile as I always shower after cleaning the chinchilla cage or giving dust baths. Over the past year though I feel that this allergy has progressively been getting worse. For the past four or five months my boyfriend has been giving the chinchillas all the dust baths because I cannot be in the same room without my skin crawling and throat itching. This presents a problem in a one-bedroom apartment.

We've tried giving the chinchillas dust baths in the bathroom, but even when the counters are wiped down and the tub is clean I find that the lingering dust in the air still causes allergies to kick in. The bathroom is my escape to clean the dust off me and shower, so dust baths in the bathroom just don't work for me.

Things turned for the worse at the start of June when I came down with a very bad respiratory infection. Severe cough, very swollen glands & throat, no voice, sick with fever, nasal congestion, wheezing, chills, the whole nine yards. It took three weeks of prescription meds from my doctor and bed rest to get back on my feet. I haven't been so sick in years. During that time I couldn't go anywhere near my chinchillas. Even being in the same room as the cage, not even directly interacting with them, made my symptoms worse. If I spent more than a few minutes in the bedroom I would feel my throat tightening up and had violent coughing fits. I've been sleeping in the living room since I got sick so that I can breath easier at night. My chinchilla cage is 5 feet wide so moving it out of the bedroom is not an option. I simply do not have space in the rest of my apartment to keep the cage somewhere else.

I've been almost completely over this respiratory infection for over a week now so last night I decided to sleep in my bedroom again. I woke up this morning to a very itchy, swollen throat. When I tried asking my boyfriend for a glass a water I had a violent coughing fit so bad that I became stomach ill. It wasn't until I was out of the bedroom and had a cup of tea that I felt the swelling go down. It took a little longer for my voice to come back. I've never had asthma or allergies that affected my airways like this before.

I've had my chinchillas for six years and this is tearing me up inside. Anything and everything having to do with caring for my chinchillas is now being handled by my boyfriend. He likes my chinchillas, but they've never really been his type of pet. He doesn't talk to them or play wit them like he does our cats. I don't fault him for this, but it just means that my chinchillas are getting very little human interaction right now outside feeding and dust bath times.

This is what has brought me to the point of needing to ask someone for help. I'm keeping a lot of emotions in check right now so that I can focus on finding a solution. Giving up my chinchillas is an absolute last resort and I don't even want to think about it right now, but I know putting my health first has to be a priority.

- What can I do?
- Has anyone else experienced allergies this severe? What did you do?
- If chinchilla dust is basically ground pumice stone, would switching brands even help? If you think it would be helpful does someone have a small bag of another brand like Blue Sparkle that I could purchase to test out?

I appreciate your thoughts and advice.

-Sarah
 

ashleynicol3

Well-known member
Joined
May 22, 2013
Messages
186
Location
Hagerstown, MD
I've never tried it, but I've seen that Whimsy sells a dust bath alternative for people who have asthma/allergies. If you Google Whimsy's Menagerie and Chinchilla Rescue, you should be able to find the website. It's in the store, under the Food & Health section. Might be worth a shot!
 

Chinmama

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 29, 2009
Messages
2,391
Location
Greenville, SC
I have a customer who is allergic to Blue Cloud and she uses Whimsy's dust with no problems. I also recommend you contact her about it.
 

Devi Xiao

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Messages
170
Location
CA
If it gets really bad, I have heard of people getting histamine shots to prevent their bodies from reacting to particular allergens. Specifically, I have heard of people using this for allergies to pollens and cats. I'm not sure if you can get one for dust as well, but as the protein that causes an allergic reaction is relatively the same, I'm sure it's possible.
 

mknoblich1

Well-known member
Joined
May 5, 2013
Messages
186
Location
Norfolk, VA
I have an air purifier that I keep next to my girls cage. I turn it up to high when I give my girls their baths and leave it on high for 30 min after they take their bath. The rest of the time I leave it on low or medium. It amazing how much hair and dust I clean off of the the input side of the filter.
 

Godofgods

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 16, 2011
Messages
2,637
Location
Harrisburg PA
air filters are always a good idea, and dust masks can help as well. But id say look into identifying what exactly it is that your having issues with. Try finding a doc office that can give you a standard allergy skin test. That will identify some things you are allergic to. There is also a blood draw test specifically for chin hair. I would suggesting starting with those two.

I can personally understand a fair amount of what your dealing with. My allergic reactions have gone completely haywire the last few years. Getting reactions to things I'm not even allergic too. Each one more sever then my life time of regular allergies combined.

The one thing Ive learned is that progressive ones like your have a tendency to keep getting worse over time. So i would advise that you start working on it as soon as you can. Air filters, dust masks, new type of sand are all good. And look into getting tested to see just what you are dealing with.
 

Zabby

Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2009
Messages
19
I tried a rather expensive Oreck Air Filter awhile ago, but the dust made the darn thing send out large crackling sparks. Less than a week later I returned it fearing that it might become a fire hazard. I haven't tried keeping an air purifier in the same room as the chinchilla cage since. I don't know which brand I would trust to try again.
 

Stackie

I bite.
Joined
Jan 29, 2009
Messages
6,399
Location
Indianapolis, IN
I have to use a mask, gloves, and long sleeves anytime I go into my chins' room now because I have developed such bad allergies to their hay and dust. I take 2 benadryl half an hour before I clean cages so I'm not an itchy, sniffling mess the entire time. I use a Honeywell HEPA Air Purifier right next to their cages and it has been going strong for 3 years now.
 

chinsNdobermans

Humble Acres Chinchillas
Joined
Mar 5, 2009
Messages
834
Location
Western NY
I always wear a mask when dusting or cleaning cages. The chin room also has an air purifier running most of the time. I tend to take a daily allergy preventative (Claritin) just to ease my sinuses since I have no idea what I am specifically allergic to - but I do know that hay and dust irritate me.
 

Pikaia

Gonna keck your butt ;)
Joined
Sep 15, 2010
Messages
1,504
Location
Ohio
Wow, I feel so bad! Allergies must be a horrible thing to deal with! I hope Whimsy's dust helps you! Keep us informed!
 

teppi

Active member
Joined
Jul 6, 2013
Messages
44
Location
San Francisco
I'm allergic to chinchillas!

But that hasn't stopped me from loving them anyways! Luckily I found an allergy specialist who helped me a lot. Among many other things, he ordered a blood test specifically for Chinchilla allergy and it came back positive. He explained to me, that even though chinchillas do not produce dander which is the main cause of allergies to pets, when they clean themselves, their saliva can get stuck to their fur, dry out, then flake off into the air. And this is what many people are actually allergic to.

I switched dust brands too. From Blue Cloud to Kaytee. Not an optimal brand as I understand it, but I think it is a lot less fine of a powder. That blue cloud seemed to linger in the air forever after the chins took their bath.

This in combination with the new allergy medicine the doctor prescribed me has almost wiped out my symptoms. I hope you find a solution that works for you too.
 

Zabby

Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2009
Messages
19
Whimsy's dust bath alternative arrived with a wonderful sample pack of assorted treats. So far the chinchillas love the treats, but it looks like they will need some time to get used to the dust alternative. It's a white powder that has a definite mineral odor to it that I can't quite place.... almost mildly like sulfur?....and has the consistency closer to flour. Because of the slight odor we switched to giving the chinchillas dust baths in the bathroom again. It's not a smell I would welcome in the bedroom. The texture difference is definitely an improvement for people dealing with allergies. The dust alternative doesn't linger in the air long at all and clumps on the ground. Before dust baths meant dust EVERYWHERE, but now most of it stays pretty close to the dust bath container. Right now the fella is doing a deep clean of the chinchilla cage and bedroom so that we can make a clean switch without any lingering traces of Blue Cloud dust. I'm going to wait a few days of being exposed to the dust alternative to see how my allergies react to the change. So far it seems like a good investment.
 

Zabby

Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2009
Messages
19
Typically two or three times a week. On humid days more often. I'm not sure if I'll need to increase or decrease that amount with the dust alternative. It should be the same, right?
 

Dragonflye

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 30, 2009
Messages
1,763
Location
Vermont
Since you are having such severe problems, I would dust once or twice per week with the dust alternative. They don't HAVE to be dusted more than once per week, especially if it is the difference between you being able to keep your babies or having to rehome them.

I dust once per week in the winter and twice in the summer, it seems to work out fine and they look healthy and happy.
 

ticklechin

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 14, 2009
Messages
8,087
Location
modesto CA
IMO I would not use a product that I do not know the ingredients, especially one that is spread through the air throughout the house, what exactly is being inhaled and what makes this person who created it a expert on allergies and health? I would not inhale it nor would I want my animals to do so. This type of thing reminds me of Captan, a powder, years ago it was the "thing" that killed fungus, people were using it in their houses because it was highly recommended, turns out it caused cancer in chins, caused eye damage and skin lesions, as far as I know there is no epidemic of cancer in people or chins by using traditional chinchilla dust, just cut back on the dustings rather than using a unknown product.
 
Last edited:

6Dusters

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 31, 2009
Messages
1,813
Location
Richmond Virginia
Hi Zabby,

I feel your pain regarding allergies.
I have my chins in the house too. It is a battle to keep the dust down while cleaning 11 cages a week. And I use Blue Cloud dust as well.

I have a hard time with dust too. My chins always look like grease balls due to once a week dust bathing. When show season comes up I have to wash the floors after each dusting. :facepalm: I dust the daylights out of them for weeks leading up to a show.

I also want to note that I have had 3 allergy tests done over 20 years and they all come back negative. In the past I have had chronic sinus problems and asthma. Asthma stopped upon moving out of the DC suburbs. Sinus problems were tricky. Took several years for my family doctor to find the right oral and nose spray to ease my suffering. I finally have a life!!

So this is what works for me. It may or may not help you.
I do have an air machine running 24/7. These machines will tell you on the box how many times it will clean a room based on the rooms dimensions. Those filters are expensive. So I take them out every couple days and beat the daylights out of them and put them back in. The dust flies out of mine.

If I didn't have chins, I wouldn't have to beat those filters. I wipe the "intake" off when I do filter duty. Keeps the air flowing properly.

I dust in the cage. I do know a breeder who has carpet in her chin room and takes the chins out and puts them in a very tall trash looking can. Keeps the dust in the can, chin can't get out, and the chins go back into the cage to deposit any left over dust into shavings. Perhaps do play time and then follow up with this routine???

I clean my floors after dusting with Murphy's Oil Soap. Can be used on counters, tubs etc. This product is natural with no chemicals.

I also clean my cages with this type of mask. BEFORE YOU LOOK.....NOTE THAT HOME DEPOT STORE SELLS THESE IN A TWO PACK. Much cheaper. They are made for dry wall workers. They have a valve for fresh air and keeps particles OUT! They have a wire to close it down over your nose bridge. And I wear my glasses when cleaning and this keeps my glasses from fogging. This mask is the bomb!! The other type mask doesn't do the job these bad boys do. I also use them to mow when its dry and when raking leaves in the fall.

http://www.homedepot.com/p/3M-Tekk-Protection-Drywall-Particulate-Respirator-10-Pack-8511DB1-A/202073594#.Ue503CvD_mI

Keep a log for your respiratory wellness. Did a season bring this on? When do you feel good? What did you use when you felt bad? Where were you when you couldn't breath well?
What changes of chin materials did you make. Be it changed shaving brands, feed, hay or cubes, dust etc. Are you using air freshener sprays. Those sprays kill my lungs. Feels like someone is squeezing my lungs and I can't get a breath. What cleaner in the bathroom are you using. Did you switch? And of course you already know about perfumes, cologne, powder, hair spray, body spray, body mists, detergents and the likes. Those seem to be trigger items.
I don't keep a log anymore. I know what my triggers are. Diesel exhaust fumes are my lungs worst enemy. So are some perfumes, air fresheners, and the National Geographic magazine ink. I refuse to put it on my Ipad. Hee Hee

Best of luck to you. Try the masks. Keep a log. Buy an air machine if you can.
 

Zabby

Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2009
Messages
19
Hi Zabby,
I also clean my cages with this type of mask.
I haven't used those masks yet, but I did start wearing a scarf wrapped over my nose and mouth when respiratory issues started kicking in from the dust. Probably not as effective, but it was free to grab from my closet.

Keep a log for your respiratory wellness. Did a season bring this on? When do you feel good? What did you use when you felt bad? Where were you when you couldn't breath well?
What changes of chin materials did you make. Be it changed shaving brands, feed, hay or cubes, dust etc. Are you using air freshener sprays.
No, it was not seasonal. This has been a long term issue that recently became more serious in June. It only acts up when I'm exposed to a lot of dust, or in the same room as the cage for an extended period of time. Since June I have not been able to sleep in the same room as the cage due to the dust. My boyfriend did a deep clean of the chinchilla cage last night and removed all traces of the Blue Cloud dust from our bedroom last night. It was the first time in awhile that I could breath with ease in that room.

I have not had any allergy tests through my doctor. I'm currently on a high deductible health insurance plan so it would cost a pretty penny. There's a few lifestyle changes I'd like to try before consulting my doctor. My company was recently merged into a different company resulting in drastic cut backs in benefits so I am a little wary to spend money I don't need to at the moment.

My twin sister has mild asthma problems, but I do not. She does not need an inhaler in her daily life. I have never had a history or any hints of respiratory problems, sickness aside. On the other hand, I have skin allergies that she does not. Some of them are rather odd. I love mango smoothies, but try to put mango lotion on me and I break out in hives.

I have not made any changes to how I care for my chinchillas. I've used the same bedding for years, Oxbow western timothy hay, Oxbow chinchilla pellets, and a bit of romaine lettuce (this was added to their diet per vet recommendation after one of my chinchillas underwent surgery due to kidney stones... three years ago? two? I can't recall exactly).

I do not use any air freshener sprays, plug-ins, or anything of the sort. I do not like artificial smells in my living space and I do not like exposing my pets to them. I don't like exposing my chinchillas to heavy scented cleaner either. The only cleaner I use in the bedroom to clean the cage is a spray bottle with warm water and a bit of apple cider vinegar. My mother buys me chemical cleaners and most of them sit in a cabinet untouched except for deep cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, or floors.

I hope that helps provide the background you're looking for.
 

Zabby

Member
Joined
Jun 7, 2009
Messages
19
IMO I would not use a product that I do not know the ingredients, especially one that is spread through the air throughout the house, what exactly is being inhaled and what makes this person who created it a expert on allergies and health? I would not inhale it nor would I want my animals to do so. This type of thing reminds me of Captan, a powder, years ago it was the "thing" that killed fungus, people were using it in their houses because it was highly recommended, turns out it caused cancer in chins, caused eye damage and skin lesions, as far as I know there is no epidemic of cancer in people or chins by using traditional chinchilla dust, just cut back on the dustings rather than using a unknown product.

Dawn, I haven't been able to sleep in my own bedroom for over a month. Even weekly dusting would still cause allergy problems. As mentioned, my boyfriend has taken over dust baths and cage cleaning, but I still can't be in the same room as the cage overnight. I wake up with my skin crawling and my throat so tight I have trouble breathing. I've woken up coughing so bad that I choke on tears and vomit. This has been impacting how I am able to care and love for my pets.

Speaking honestly, no, I do not know what blend of minerals and clay are in the dust alternative. But I trust Whimsy based on the recommendation of people here on this form, that she has run a rescue for many years, and that her website states she provides in-service training for local veterinary clinics, pet stores and youth groups. If anyone has any proof that this dust alternative poses any risk at all to my chinchillas I will throw it out. Right now I do not have any reason to believe it is anything other than a great product for people facing allergy problems.
 
Top