When you have an allergy for laundry detergent, the body's immune system treats the detergent as an invader and therefore, reacts wrongly when exposed to it. This situation is also known as contact dermatitis, which is responsible for skin inflammation whenever the skin is exposed to the substance that irritates it. Common types of skin exposures that can lead to contact dermatitis include kitchen cleaning, hand washing, general cleaning and bathroom cleaning. Among all the commonly noticed allergies, laundry detergent allergy is the most common type of allergy.
Contact dermatitis is triggered by innumerable natural and synthetic chemicals, including those found in soaps, cleaning agents, household cleaners, washing powders, metal jewelry, perfumes, industrial solvents, cosmetics, fabric finishes, shampoos and even antibiotic ointments. When your body overreacts to a substance which is actually harmless to most people, you are said to have an allergy to that substance. The substances for which the body overreacts are called allergens. The inappropriate reaction of the immune system while attempting to protect the body from the allergen, compels the body to produce antibodies, called immunoglobulin E (IgE). In order to defend against the allergen, these IgE compel the mast cells and basophils (cells that protect your body from infections and allergies) to release chemicals like histamine into the bloodstream. These chemicals affect the eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs or gastrointestinal tract, etc. of the person. Any future exposure to the allergen can trigger the allergic response of the body again. Every time the person eats that food or is exposed to that specific allergen, his body attempts to get rid of the allergen and he has an allergic reaction.
Allergies can be passed through genes but that does not mean that if you have an allergy, your kids will also have the same allergy. There is just the likelihood of getting the allergy. Sometimes, children are found allergic to a substance, for which no family member is allergic. In case of 'detergent allergy', the immune system reacts adversely when the skin comes in contact with the detergent. Detergent allergy symptoms can develop in an almost endless variety of ways, let us see what they are.
- Some laundry detergent ingredients may cause skin rashes on hands. Mostly, the dyes and perfumes from the detergents trigger an allergic reaction. Inflamed and/or reddened skin is noticed in this type of allergy. These symptoms may appear several hours after the contact with the detergent.
- An allergy to washing powder may exhibit symptoms like dry, chapped skin after an initial exposure to a detergent or other cleaning products like fabric softeners, whiteners, bluing agents, stain removal agents, bleaching agents, etc.
- Repeated exposure to the allergen may cause itchy, red and scaly patches on the skin.
- Further exposure of the already irritated skin to the allergen may make the skin swollen, blistered and scaly. There may be burning or stinging sensation.
- In case of such an allergy, continuous exposure to the detergent that is triggering the skin reaction, may worsen the situation. The condition may become a chronic (long-lasting) condition. Chronic contact dermatitis may lead to thickened, dry and scaly skin and sometimes, pigment changes and areas of hair loss are also noticed.
For those who are allergic to detergents, here are some important laundry tips.
- Wash your hands with water immediately after you come in contact with the detergent. You can apply soothing creams.
- As it is difficult to detect a detergent allergy, you should first of all discover the reason behind the skin allergy and you should find out the allergen detergent by observing your own habits yourself.
- Avoid the use of that particular skin-irritant and this only can prove to be the best treatment.
- If your skin is very sensitive, even the detergent residue from your clothing / bed sheets / towels (after you wash it), can trigger an allergic reaction. Use less detergent and make sure that clothes are washed using an extra rinse cycle.
- If you are fond of housekeeping, always use gloves to avoid contact with the detergents.
- Use of a fully automatic washing machine can reduce the contact with detergents and thus, can reduce the chances of skin reaction.
- Homemade laundry soaps can reduce the chances of an allergic reaction. You can yourself make a detergent avoiding the ingredients that usually cause skin irritation.
- In case of itchy rash, apply calamine lotion and cool compresses. You may also apply over-the-counter cortisone cream.
- Consult a dermatologist, for the treatment of irritated skin. He can prescribe some tablets to reduce the symptoms of skin allergy.