Parrots, like most birds, product a natural dust on their skin that can trigger allergic reactions in some people. Although it usually doesn't cause any serious health effects, allergic reactions can still be incredibly uncomfortable.
A person who suffers from parrot-related allergies may experience itching, sneezing, coughing, watery eyes and a runny nose. Again, these aren't life-threatening symptoms by any means, but they can still turn your day upside.
What Is Feather Dust?
Feather dust is term used to describe an extremely fine, powder-like substance that's produced between a parrot's feathers and their skin. Owners will usually find feather dust at the bottom of their parrot's cage and on the floor underneath the cage. If there's a fan or vent nearby, the dust may get blown throughout the home.
All parrots will produce at least some feather dust, but cockatoos, cockatiels and African Greys are known to produce more. This is why it's important for individuals and families to research the different species before making the decision to adopt a parrot.
Problems Associated With Feather Dust
In small amounts, it's helpful for keeping the parrot's skin soft and smooth. However, forcing a parrot to live in a confined space with large quantities of feather dust could lead to respiratory problems, as the parrot will inadvertently breathe in the dust. Subsequently, this may lead to respiratory infections, trouble breathing, hacking/coughing, or similar respiratory problems.
Feather dust can also adversely affect you and your family's health. If anyone inside the home is allergic to pet dander, they may suffer from an allergic reaction when exposed to feather dust.
It's not uncommon for people to sneeze and develop itchy, watery eyes when exposed to feather dust -- especially if they are allergic to dog and/or cat dander. Can dogs,cats and parrots coexist? Know more about it in our previous blog.
While all parrots create this allergic dust, certain species create a larger amount of it. If you're thinking about adopting a pet parrot but are worried about allergies, you should avoid African Greys and Cockatoos.
On the other hand, Cockatiels and Parakeets produce a minimal amount of dust, making them a better choice for people with allergies. Do your homework before adopting a pet parrot and find out which ones are suitable for your family's needs.
The good news is that you can still comfortably live with a pet parrot, even if you suffer from allergies. Try to get into the habit of washing your hands after playing, petting or touching your pet parrot.
The natural dust covering their feathers and body will get on your hands after touching them. And if you happen to touch your eyes after playing with your parrot, you could transfer this dust directly into the "problem" areas; thus, resulting in an allergic reaction.
One technique I've learned is to place a bottle of waterless hand soap by the parrot's cage. Whenever someone gets finished playing with the parrot, they can immediately wash their hands without going to the bathroom or kitchen. Waterless hand soap is just as effective -- if not more effective -- than washing your hands under the sink.
Of course, cleaning your parrot's cage on a regular basis is also critical for owners who suffer from bird allergies. Some people assume their parrot's cage can go 'uncleaned' for days or even weeks on end. Unfortunately, this oftentimes results in a buildup of dust, feathers and debris, all of which can lead to allergic reactions. The bottom line is that owners need to clean their parrots' cages daily to reduce the chance of allergic reactions.
Lastly, vacuuming your floors every couple of days will help suck up some of the dust and debris created by your parrot.
Tips To Control Your Parrot's Feather Dust:
- Bathe your parrot at least once a week (refer to our previous post here for step-by-step instructions).
- Change your home's air monthly. Air filters are cheap, usually costing no more than $5, but keeping a "fresh" one in your home will greatly improve the air quality by eliminating feather dust and other impurities.
Parrots are surprisingly clean animals that spend a large portion of the day grooming and preening themselves.
Some varieties like cockatoos, cockatiels and African Greys, however, are known to produce a large amount of dander known as feather dust. Small amounts of feather dust is perfectly fine and should cause no reason for concern, but large amounts can place both you and your parrot's health at risk.
How do you cope with allergies around your pet parrot? Let us know what works for you in the comments section below!