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Itch Itch, Scratch Scratch: Allergies to High Efficiency Laundry Detergents

written by: Veronica Sky • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 7/13/2011

Read about the causes, signs and symptoms, risks and treatment options for an allergic reaction to high efficiency detergents.

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    So you just got your brand new high efficiency washing machine, but one wash and your clothes leave you feeling itchy and uncomfortable. Chances are you’re prone to having an allergic reaction to high efficiency detergents. The good news is, although the machines are relatively new, the allergic reactions to the detergents are much the same as allergic reactions to regular laundry detergents.

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    Signs and Symptoms

    The symptoms of an allergic reaction to high efficiency detergents are mainly characterized by itchy, red skin. Your skin may turn red and a rash may form on your hands if you have been in direct contact with the detergent. These reactions may occur hours after you have been in contact with the product. This means the reaction may even occur after you change out of the clothes washed in the detergent. Other symptoms include dry or chapped skin and itchy or scaly patches.

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    Risks

    The risk of allowing these allergic reactions to occur frequently is that if your already sensitive skin is exposed to any other allergens, such as other chemical products or even dust, the skin may become swollen, blistered and scaly and you may experience a burning or stinging sensation. In addition, frequent allergic reactions to high efficiency detergents, can cause the situation to become chronic (long-lasting). This chronic contact dermatitis may lead to thickened, dry and scaly skin. In some cases, pigment changes hair loss may occur.

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    Why Me?

    Allergies can be a difficult issue to deal with. Skin allergies are like any other allergy; they are caused when your immune system has an inappropriate reaction to a product. The body’s produces antibodies known as immunoglobulin in hopes of defending you against the offending substance. As a result, the body releases various chemicals into the body including histamine. Histamine causes the eyes, nose, throat, skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract to be negatively affected. Every time you come into contact with the offending product your body will go through these steps and an adverse reaction will occur.

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    Treatment

    There are treatment options for this allergy. First, try to find high efficiency laundry detergents that are made without fragrances or that are made specifically for sensitive skin. The Tide brand has some mild fragrances, and the Ultra Sunlight brand has the HE, Sensitive Skin and Fragrance-Free labels.

    When you do come in direct contact with the detergent, then immediately wash your hands with water. In case of a rash, apply calamine lotion and cool compresses to the affected areas.

    Ask your doctor if applying over-the-counter cortisone cream is a good option for you. Although there is no test to detect a laundry detergent allergy, you should still talk to your doctor about treating your allergic reaction to high efficiency detergents. He/she may prescribe something to reduce the affect of the detergents on your skin. The best way to prevent this allergy is by testing out various detergent brands and noting how your body reacts until you can find the brand that is best for you.

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    References:

    mayoclinic.com: Allergies

    webmd.com: Skin Allergies

    cleaning.tips.net: Controlling Allergic Reactions to Laundry Detergent