Are You Allergic To Your…Clothes?!

A white shirt hanging on a clothes-lineAs the weather changes, it’s likely your wardrobe will follow suit. For a number of reasons, as it gets colder, our skin also tends to change. A symptom such as chapped skin may easily be overlooked as a seasonal affair, but in reality, it could be your seasonal gear.

Many people aren’t aware that clothing allergies exist. It’s not a problem that only arises with winter apparel, but its one that may be more noticeable then because people tend to have more contact with fabrics for longer periods.

During the summer, for example, your arms may be bare most of the season, and if you do cover them, it’s likely only for the short period that you spend in a cold place, such as movie theater. But, in the winter, you will likely cling to your sleeves all day, most every day.

Understandably, clothing allergies may be one of those things that cause you to sigh and shake your head. Another category of ordinary items is being deemed a threat, you may be thinking.

That’s largely because people that sell things like to experiment so that they can capture more attention from people who buy things.

There are now flame resistant shirts, hoodies, overalls, and jackets. Good marketing or a sensationalist sales pitch could get a company to mandate flame resistant gear for their employees. What that marketing is less likely to do is to explain that producing flame resistant garments involves using a chemical process. It is even more unlikely that any adverse effects associated with those chemicals will be discussed. Instead, people may just pile on layers of these garments because they supposed to be safe and that’s what they are told to do.

Fashion developments are not always the blessing that may appear to be. At one time, people across the nation were putting their children to bed in flame resistant pajamas. Then, it was discovered that the flame retardant chemical could leach into children’s systems. That chemical has been deemed a mutagen and carcinogen and is now banned.

These days, it’s common for formaldehyde resins to be used in clothing. Formaldehyde is cheap industrial chemical made from an odorless gas and it is also considered a potential carcinogen. Some people are allergic to it and it has been widely noted as a cause of dermatitis for others.

If you are wondering which garments are likely to have it and why it is used, the answer is it’s in a wide range of clothes and used to wide range of features, such as:

• Permanent press
• Anti-cling, anti-static, anti-wrinkle and anti-shrink finishes
• Chlorine-resistant finishes
• Stiffening of lightweight knits
• Waterproof finishes
• Perspiration proof finishes

That irritation or an allergic reaction can result from clothing may not be a surprise to you. You may have a garment that has led you to conclude that you are allergic to the material that it is made from. That you are allergic to a certain fabric is possible, but its dye is more likely the problem.

For example, the Washington Dept. of Labor and Industries identified the blue, black, green and violet liners in women’s pants to be a cause of allergic reactions because of the disperse dye used. These can cause severe acute eczema reactions that may become chronic, the agency said.

Skin care professionals also caution individuals about metallic decorations on their clothes, especially jeans. The metal commonly used to produce those decorative effects is nickel, a known irritant and allergen.

So what should you look for when considering whether or not your apparel is causing you problems? Common symptoms of allergy or irritant dermatitis include:

• Redness
• Hive-like rashes
• Eczema or eczema-like conditions
• Burning and itching sensations
• Scaly skin

In addition to the skin-related side effects, a person may experience watery eyes, scratchy throat or a runny nose. You should also note that problems tend to be most likely in areas where there are high levels of friction or sweating. This may include spots such as the thighs, inner elbows and around the neck.