Formaldehyde is a chemical that finds extensive use in the industries and products that we use in our daily life. It has the chemical formula CH2O. It is known by various other names like formalin, methanal, methyl aldehyde, methylene oxide, morbicid acid and oxymethylene. Cosmetics, household cleansers, shampoos, creams, paints, anti-wrinkle finishes, waterproof finishes etc. are some of the areas where it is used extensively. Since it is used on such a large-scale, exposure to it is possible due to various known and unknown paths.
It can cause various allergic signs in people who are exposed to it directly or indirectly. The adverse effects of its allergy are dependent on the type of exposure that one has faced. Mild exposures can result in quick recovery, but exposure in large doses will require immediate hospital treatment. The allergy signs are as follows.
- Giddiness: People exposed to it may feel dizzy due to the imbalance that it causes in the endolymph fluid of the inner ear.
- Nausea and Vomiting: Its exposure triggers vomiting in people that is a common reaction in people who are prone to allergies.
- Respiratory Problems: It is highly toxic and can affect the lung stretch receptors, that help in regulating breathing patterns. People exposed to it may feel discomfort in breathing.
- Burning Sensation: Eyes, ears and throat area can experience a burning sensation, in case they are exposed to it.
- Skin Irritation: Skin is the most sensitive organ of the body and chemicals like formaldehyde may cause skin rashes or hives on the skin. Skin rashes can also develop from clothes that have been washed in laundry, with detergents containing this chemical.
The first step in the process of its treatment is to diagnose the allergy signs in the patient. Allergy from it is diagnosed by performing tests and studying the clinical history of the patient. Patch tests also known as plaster tests are conducted to test the presence of formaldehyde in the individual's body. Patch testing is a diagnostic measure that is used to determine if a certain substance is causing complications to the skin. Patch testing is conducted to identify the allergen responsible for skin dermatitis. Once the allergen is identified, it's easier to cure the allergy.
The treatment for allergy is similar to that of eczema and other skin diseases, that is, the person experiencing the signs must avoid contact with formaldehyde sources. Cosmetics and other ingredients related to skin care, must be tested before using. It is a fact that many people are allergic to certain types of facial creams, so one should check out the ingredients before using them. Since formaldehyde is a carcinogen, it is advisable to avoid it whenever possible. Products containing it should show some warning or information.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends standard measures to be adopted by workers and employers working in the areas that are highly prone to formaldehyde exposure. These may include the chemical and industrial factories. Installing ventilation systems in the embalming process is also encouraged by the EPA, to reduce the risk of allergy. In case of eye allergy, flushing with cold water is known to provide relief. If the signs appear after consuming some substance containing formaldehyde, then drinking milk or water can dilute its effects. In case of skin problems like rashes or itches, the person can be given skin ointments as a first aid but immediate medical help is always better and preferable.