nail fungus treatment

Fabric allergy: in what cases can clothes cause allergies?


If your skin turns red after wearing tight clothes, or if wool makes it itchy and polyester causes a rash, you may be allergic to one type of fabric or another. It is also called textile dermatitis. The latter is a form of contact dermatitis. It occurs when the skin reacts negatively to the fabric itself or to chemicals that are used in the manufacturing or processing of clothing.

There are natural (cotton, linen, silk, wool), synthetic (viscose, polyester, rubber, nylon, fiberglass and spandex) and combined fabrics. Reactions to natural tissues are considered to be rarer. In particular, there is evidence that today there is no evidence confirming an allergy (hypersensitivity types I and IV) to wool fibers. However, the large diameter of this fiber may contribute to skin irritation, while finer yarns are better tolerated.

Rare are also allergic reactions to cotton. Although such clothing can also cause itching and redness, this is usually due to skin irritation.

A somewhat ambiguous situation with silk. On the one hand, according to some reports, silk can even alleviate the symptoms of dermatitis, on the other hand, there are sporadic data on immunological contact urticaria that occurred after wearing silk clothes.

It is much more common to have a reaction to clothing due to an allergy to polyester (polyester) and latex. They are one of the most common causes of textile dermatitis. Other culprits in the reaction include rayon, nylon, spandex, and rubber. Compared to natural fibers, which tend to be breathable, these fabrics are more snug, causing more perspiration, which tends to increase the backlash.

For example, 6% of the population is known to be allergic to latex or spandex.

In addition, contact dermatitis can be caused by chromium, cobalt, and rubber found in some textiles.

Although rubber gives elasticity to the fabric, it contains a number of allergically dangerous substances: thiuram , black rubber, mercaptobenzothiazole carbine compounds and mercapto compounds . The ankles, wrists, and feet are common sites for rubber reactions.

Allergies can also be provoked by individual items of clothing, such as nickel buttons or fasteners. Nickel allergy is thought to be one of the most common causes of clothing-related reactions.


Textile allergic contact dermatitis is not mainly caused by the fabric itself, but by the substances that are used to impart certain qualities or characteristics to the material.

Firstly, we are talking about the so-called biocides , which are used to protect clothing and fabrics during their production or transportation. These include triclosan, dichlorooctylisothiazolinone , dimethyl fumarate , and silver particles.

Formaldehyde belongs to the leading substances in terms of the ability to cause allergic skin reactions through clothing . Its resins make fabrics resistant to wrinkles (that is, the fabric does not wrinkle so much), but the skin from their exposure may turn red and begin to itch.

Formaldehyde is a preservative that is used to treat dense pressed fabrics. Rash caused by formaldehyde, as a rule, appears in areas that are closely adjacent to the body. That is, where excessive friction can occur: on the back, sides, waist, neck, and hips.

Formaldehyde and chromates are associated with the majority of occupational dermatitis among those who work in the leather and dye industries.

retardants ( dibromopropyl , phosphate, dibromocresylglycidyl ether) can also cause a reaction . These substances have antiseptic and flame retardant properties and can be used in the production of children’s pajamas, bedding and plush toys. They can cause contact dermatitis and some of them can be toxic and have a detrimental effect on future health.

Dyes may also remain on clothing . Somehow benzanthrone and sulfites (the latter are used in bleaching).

According to various sources, the incidence of allergic contact dermatitis caused by textile dyes ranges from 0.05 to 15.9% of the total number of inhabitants of a particular country.

Different colors are used for synthetic and natural fibers. The overall rate of sensitization to reactive dyes used to dye natural fibers is very low. In one study, only 18 out of 1,813 (0.99%) patients who were specifically tested showed positive reactions to them within 1 year.

Disperse dyes are another matter , which are used to dye synthetic textiles, polyester, nylon, and fiber blends.

They are made on the basis of azo – and anthraquinone. These dyes give the fabric rich dark (blue, brown, green) shades. Some of these substances have been linked to allergy to phenylenediamine hair dye . Therefore, people who react to hair dye may also react to clothes in saturated colors.

Disperse dyes make up more than 20% of all dyes produced in the world.

Approximately 60% of all disperse dyes are azo dyes . They are cheap and easy to use and can render the entire gamut of colors.

Azo dyes are associated with most occupational dermatitis in textile workers.

About 25% of disperse dyes are anthraquinone dyes. The rest is quinophthalon , methine, naphthalimide , naphthoquinone and nitro dyes .

Almost all disperse dyes are partially associated with textile fibers. Therefore, small lipophilic molecules can easily migrate to the skin. Within the EU, some disperse dyes (mainly azo dyes ) are classified as allergenic and their use is restricted.

The prevalence of contact allergy to disperse dyes varies by country and by type of substance. According to some reports, prevalence rates range from 0.4 to 6.7%.

An allergic reaction can also be provoked by para – phenylenediamines , which are used to dye fabrics and fur.

In addition, various adhesives, laundry detergents, and perfumes can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.


Women who like tight-fitting clothes, as well as people with eczema or a tendency to excessive sweating, suffer most often from various reactions to clothing. This can be facilitated by the peculiarities of working conditions, for example, work in kitchens, bakeries, laundries, etc.

Textile contact dermatitis is usually characterized by delayed reactions. Those that appear through redness and peeling of the skin.

In addition, contact dermatitis causes a very itchy rash that can lead to small red bumps and even blisters.

Symptoms may appear within hours of contact with the material, but sometimes a reaction may not be seen until several days later.

As a rule, allergic reactions occur in places that are most often in close contact with clothing: on the arms, buttocks, back of the head, in the armpits, and so on.

In some situations, the rash can become secondarily infected with fungi or bacterial organisms.

But, basically, the symptoms of textile dermatitis are similar to eczema: the skin becomes red, dry, begins to peel and itch .

In most cases, these manifestations are temporary, that is, they can go away on their own. However, sometimes the reaction can extend beyond the skin. Other symptoms of an allergic reaction to tissue include:

  • breathing problems, including shortness of breath;
  • conjunctivitis;
  • inflammation in the hair follicles;
  • abdominal pain
  • runny or stuffy nose.

Some people may develop a more severe systemic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • swelling and redness of the skin, lips, tongue or throat,
  • shortness of breath (with or without wheezing),
  • low Blood Pressure,
  • dizziness.

If you experience these symptoms, you should immediately call an ambulance.


The best way to avoid unwanted tissue reactions is to avoid the types of tissue that can cause a reaction. And it’s not just about clothes – carpets, sheets and even toys can also cause dermatitis.

  • Before buying any product, be sure to read the labels.
  • Also, choose light-colored clothes, as they are made with fewer dyes.
  • Wear natural fibers such as cotton and linen
  • Avoid tight clothing.
  • Avoid clothes that are labeled “stain-free” or “iron-free” as they are more likely to contain chemicals that can cause irritation.
  • Determine what is causing your skin irritation and avoid that substance. For example, if it’s a nickel button on pants and shirt sleeves, replace it with nylon buttons.
  • Change old clothes, as dust and mites can accumulate in them over the years.
  • Formaldehyde in clothing can be avoided by washing the item before wearing.
  • If you are allergic to polyester, for example, opt for clothing made from cotton, silk, wool, and the like instead.
  • If you think you have a latex allergy or sensitivity, try avoiding clothing that contains elastic bands (trousers, underwear, sneakers, and coats with fitted cuffs), bath mats, rubber gloves, and so on.


Tissue allergy is diagnosed by performing special patch tests. They involve sensitivity testing to a number of different chemical potential allergens that may be present in the fabric. However, pinpointing the exact cause of sensitivity can be very difficult, as textiles can be made using a “cocktail” of dyes, resins, and other substances. In addition, clothing is not labeled for the list of chemicals it may contain.

For the treatment of textile contact dermatitis , in particular to control itching, swelling and redness, mild topical steroids are commonly used , such as hydrocortisone 0.5-2.5%.

Antihistamines may also be recommended as this is one of the most effective ways to get rid of common allergy symptoms.

In more severe cases, stronger agents may be used, and in the case of a bacterial infection, antibiotics may also be used.

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