Working with animals

Allergy to laboratory animals can occur at any time in anyone of any age and there is no gender difference. The majority of cases arise in the first two years of exposure, so health surveillance is more intensive over this period.

Many symptoms may be annoying but some are serious.  Symptoms arise from the body’s reaction to animal proteins, often but not exclusively, from their excreta. The proteins become airborne and can be inhaled or settle on exposed skin as well as clothing, so direct animal contact is not necessarily required. This can then lead to the body mounting a response that produces symptoms.


  • A nettle type rash or red itchy areas that may scale
  • Itchy and red eyes
  • Sneezing, itchy, runny or dry blocked nose.
  • Dry cough, chest tightness, wheezing or unexpected shortness of breath on exertion.

It is important that should you experience any of the symptoms described above that you report to the unit manager for guidance.


In general those at high risk of infection from rabies will be rare. Those so designated are likely to be working directly with the virus or have a significant probability of coming into contact with it from a wild animal. Those working with wild animals in the UK (with the exception of the bat Myotis daubentonii) are likely to be at low risk.


Managers have a responsibility to ensure that the process of surveillance, when indicated, is undertaken and advice from Occupational Health is complied with.

Related downloads

Working overseas and fieldwork

Request for health surveillance (DOCX)

Fieldwork checklist (DOCX)

Guidance on Rabies (DOCX)

Fieldwork - request for health screening (DOCX)