Ask the Allergist
Can I Have Backyard Chickens If I Have Asthma?
People with asthma can have backyard birds, such as chickens. But, there are definite and known risks with exposure. Asthma and other respiratory diseases can put you at risk for worsening lung disease. This is with constant exposure to poultry dust. It is a mixture of:
- Bird feathers
- Bedding material
- Bird droppings
- Dust mites
With this exposure, asthma and breathing problems may worsen over time. It may cause permanent breathing problems.
If you get backyard chickens, there are several things that you can do to prevent exposure to asthma triggers from chickens, including:
- Wear recommended respiratory protective equipment (e.g. N-95 face mask).
- Have someone else (without respiratory disease) lay down the bedding, and clean the chicken coop.
- Change your clothes after dealing with the chickens.
- Avoid handling the chickens, directly.
- Make sure that your asthma symptoms are well controlled with appropriate treatments.
Discuss this issue further with your healthcare provider. Consulting with an allergy and asthma specialist can be very worthwhile as well.
John M. James, MD, is a board-certified allergist. He is also President of Food Allergy Consulting and Education Services, LLC. He has worked as a medical specialist in the field of allergy, asthma, and immunology for over 30 years. Dr. James received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas and his Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Tennessee. He is board certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.