Formaldehyde Allergy Symptoms

Formaldehyde Allergy SymptomsIn the United States of America, allergies rank sixth in the list of chronic diseases as far as spending on the disease is concerned. More than half the population suffers from one or more allergies. It is possible that any one element from our daily use would cause a particular individual to react unfavorably.

In this article, we are going to explore the different symptoms of

formaldehyde allergy

. It is referred to by different names like methanol, formalin, methyl aldehyde, morbicid, oxymethylene and methylene oxide.


Formaldehyde is a chemical which comes to our daily use in more ways than one can imagine. It is a colorless gas with a characteristic pungent odor. Commercial solutions of the chemical in water are used as a disinfectant and also used to treat dead specimens and preserve them. This particular solution of formaldehyde is known as Formalin. The discussed chemical is used in the synthesis of other chemical compounds like polymers.

The US National Toxicology Program classified formaldehyde as a carcinogenic agent. It is highly toxic and ingestion can cause death. It can severely impact the gastrointestinal tract because of its corrosive nature.

Mechanism behind the allergy caused by Formaldehyde

The immune system is hypersensitive in some individuals. Low molecular weight chemicals bind with chemoreceptor cells in the body or sensory nerve C-fibers and produces chemicals which are inflammatory mediators or causes inflammation. Inflammatory mediators are released from the mast cells in the gut, pharynx and skin. These cause inflammation of blood vessels causing swelling and irritate nerve endings causing skin rashes.

Formaldehyde Allergy Symptoms:

Symptoms of the allergy depend on the kind of exposure. Upon direct contact, the symptoms are seen on skin as rashes or lesions. When exposed to formaldehyde in gaseous state, the symptoms manifest in the organs related to the process of respiration.

The milder reactions are as follows:

  • Skin rashes as in allergic contact dermatitis
  • Lesions on the skin
  • Discoloration and irritation of skin
  • Burning sensations in the chest
  • Burning sensations in eyes, throat and nose
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Tightness in chest
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Migraines
  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea

Prolonged or intense exposure may cause the immune system to behave hyper sensitively. Allergic contact dermatitis is the most common outcome of such an exposure. Redness, swelling, blisters with pus, leathery and cracked skin forming crusts and scales are common.

Skin coming in contact with products containing formaldehyde is generally affected. A good example is clothing having a frictional contact with certain body parts like the gluteal folds, arm pits, inner thighs and back of knees. This is also known as “Trouser dermatitis”. Moisture from sweat and sebum reacts with the formaldehyde resins and releases the free formaldehyde.

On ingestion, the lining of the gastrointestinal tract is severely affected by the corrosive nature of the chemical concerned. Lesions and tears can occur in the gastric tract.

These symptoms can be mild to severe depending on the extent of the exposure and physiological condition of the person. Symptoms usually get progressively worse with longer exposure. Women are more prone to formaldehyde allergy than men. It is due to the body structure of women and women’s clothing. People who are extremely sensitive may even react to the strong smell of the residual gas left behind from formaldehyde.


  • The first step to treat the condition would be to stop the exposure to the chemical or reduce the exposure.
  • The treatment for acute dermatitis would include the use of topical corticosteroids, emollients etc. However, corticosteroids cannot be used for a longer period of time.

Preventive Measures for Formaldehyde Allergy

  • Do not go for clothing which are supposed to be wrinkle free and does not require pressing.
  • Wash new clothes several times in hot water before using. The same goes for bedding materials.
  • Wear clothes that are made from pure cotton, polyester, nylon or acrylic.
  • Pressed wood or furniture made from particle wood must be used only if it is coated or laminated.
  • If you have an occupational exposure to the said allergen, then it would be prudent to inform your employer about your sensitivity. Wear suggested protective clothing while at work.
  • Read labels well and stay away from products containing preservatives which could release formaldehyde. Some of the well known preservatives are Quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea etc.

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