How to Avoid Fabric Allergies
Sometimes, we feel very uncomfortable or have a prickly feeling after wearing a particular fabric or our trousers make us allergic. The fact is that fabric affects our well-being. Allergies can arise from the safest materials. Fabrics can be divided into those from natural sources (wool, cotton, silk, animal skin, fur, feather, paper) and synthetic (nylon, rayon, polyester, polyurethane, synthetic rubber and others).
A person can become hypersensitive to any one or a combination of these fabrics. Clothes manufacturing involves a number of chemical pesticides, formaldehyde and chlorine in cotton and wool manufacture and oil products in synthetic fabrics. These fabrics are what, more often than not, cause a reaction.
Synthetic clothes are harmful:
Convenience clothes available to us come with permanent press, easy wash, and easy dry and with inexpensive prices. But there is a problem – most synthetic fabrics are continuously emitting formaldehyde, which is a toxic gas. And synthetic clothes can cause us to ingest most of the gas emitted through our skins. And keeping the trends of fashion in mind, these clothes are worn tight, almost like a second skin. The tighter your clothing, the more directly this gas is being fed into the pores of your skin.
Looser clothes, older clothes or clothes that have been washed more often have the formaldehyde levels reduced and that is why they feel more comfortable. Although many people believe they are allergic to wool, a true wool allergy is rare.
People are usually just sensitive to the texture of the fabric. Fabrics that are stretchy and ʻgiveʼ when you move are often more comfortable than stiffer fabrics, especially if you sit for long periods.
Sometimes, our skin reacts to the different kinds of fabrics we wear. By and large, it is seen that natural fabrics like cotton and skin do not cause any kind of skin irritation.
However, in some people, rashes, red skin, itchiness can occur when the skin comes in contact with synthetic fibres such as nylon. Even wool can causes rashes in sensitive individuals. In the case of clothing rash, it is best to discontinue the use of the culprit fabric/dress and switch to comfortable cotton clothing. If it is a minor rash, it can be soothed by the immediate application of calamine lotion. If the rash or itchiness or swelling is serious, it is best to consult a dermatologist who may then prescribe a corticosteroid based ointment to soothe the inflammation and itchiness.
The weight of a fabric can also be important to consider, especially if you experience pain when moving or if you have limited strength or endurance. Wearing a few lightweight garments is likely to be warmer and more comfortable than a heavy coat. Try to avoid creases and folds in fabric as they can increase the risk of a skin breakdown, especially if you are sitting for long periods, or if you perspire a lot. Rigid seams in jeans, fasteners and pockets should be avoided where there is more pressure.
Common Fabric Allergies:
The most common fabric-related allergy is an allergy to formaldehyde resins, which are used to make fabrics waterproof and resistant to wrinkles and shrinkage. They are also used in elastics, and some people develop a rash around the abdomen when elastic in undergarments is exposed with wear. If you experience formaldehyde allergy symptoms – such as burning eyes, skin rashes, and chest tightness – look for clothing that’s only lightly treated with resins, such as pure cotton, polyester, nylon, and acrylic. Often, people who are allergic to formaldehyde in fabric can tolerate clothing that has been washed many times.
In medical terms, the itchiness or rashes that we get when we wear certain types of fabrics is called irritant dermatitis and leads to redness, swelling and great itching in the skin. If left untreated and with the action of sweat, humidity and moisture the skin condition can get worse. So, it is important that one should try and avoid wearing synthetic fabrics (as far as possible) such as nylon, polyester and also chemically treated fabrics.
“The latter include normal cotton or other fabric type that is treated with formaldehyde and other chemicals bearing traces of metals like nickel to make the clothes wrinkle-free. Such chemicals and metals can irritate the skin badly and should be avoided at all costs.
Always wear natural fabrics like cotton, linen and silk. Try and avoid wearing too tight clothes for the problem of “intertrigo” in the groin area that is very common, especially among obese people who wear tight clothes primarily made of synthetic fibres and fabrics. If you develop such rashes, etc. from clothing, you should immediately consult a dermatologist. In general, wearing natural fabrics that can absorb the sweat and moisture well such as cotton and avoiding damp and humid conditions helps in keeping the skin in good health.
Dyes and leather can affect:
Certain types of clothing can aggravate some illnesses – psoriasis; for instance, can get worse if you wear nylon, polyester or synthetic fabrics next to your skin. Some textile dyes can cause allergies. In the dyeing process the dyes bind to the fibres, and sometimes excess colour can be released and come into contact with skin. Some clothing manufacturers are now using 100 per cent organic, unbleached cotton and silk with natural dyes, which may be more suitable if you have an allergy to textile dyes.
Other less-known irritants like dyes, elastic materials, laundry detergents and fabric softeners can cause dermatitis on the torso, arms and legs. Your feet can be affected by dyes, rubber compounds, and leather tanning products in shoes or elastic fibres in hosiery. Nickel which is used in jewelry, bra fasteners, eyelash curlers and metallic glass frames, can cause a reaction. If you get your ears pierced by the ear-piercing machine and your new ear hole doesn’t heal within a week, you might be reacting to the metal from the nickel-plated earrings inserted post piercing.
Another common allergy could be that of leather. You could find your feet (shoes) or wrist (watch strap) or hand (briefcase/handbag) developing a rash or reaction. This is because leather is treated, dyed and then preserved with many chemicals, which make it durable, flexible and mould-free.
The chemicals used in the processing of leather are what can cause allergic dermatitis. If you have got a patch that itches, or has darkened considerably in comparison with the rest of your skin, don’t take any chances. Take yourself to a dermatologist now.
Latex allergy is another very common allergy. If you are allergic to rubber, you will develop rashes along elastic bands of underwear, clothing or pants or if you wear stretch fabrics like Spandex used for support undergarments, swimwear, and surgical bandages. Natural rubber is not the sensitizer, more often than not; it is the chemicals added to process the rubber that causes the reactions.
Detergents used to wash clothes could also cause your skin to break out. This occurs because the detergent, whitener and fabric softener are often not rinsed out thoroughly enough and the residue is enough to make your skin break out on contact.
Some people are also allergic to wool. Such allergic reactions are primarily due to materials stuck to the wool or due to wool dust which is inhaled.
Tips To Prevent Allergic Reactions:
- Use cotton underwear. With fewer toxic chemicals than synthetics to irritate your skin, it will be more absorbent.
- Use more natural fibres like cotton and silk. Wrinkles on clothes are less important than your body being affected by chemical in clothes you don’t need to iron.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
- Ensure that your closets have air circulation. Or ensure you air your cupboards periodically.
- Don’t hang dirty, sweaty clothing with clean clothes. Fungus spores and bacteria can attack your clean, laundered clothes in the closet as well.
- Do try using an unscented detergent. And rinse your clothes well to prevent detergent residue from causing skin reactions.
- If you get itchy feet, genitals, breasts or wrists, make sure that you wash your clothes with antiseptic and detergent to remove build-up.
- Lycra is widely used in socks, stockings and tights and may cause problems for some people with sensitive skin. Choosing garments made from 100 per cent cotton may be more suitable.