Formaldehyde Allergy Treatment

Formaldehyde AllergyIn 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 facets 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.

Sources of Formaldehyde Exposure

The different sources through which we could be exposed to formaldehyde in our day to day activities could be many. Some of the common ones are given below:

  • Cosmetics and toiletries commonly contain the said chemical. Deodrants, anti perspirants, nail polishes, make up, shampoos, creams etc can also have it.
  • Disinfectants and laundry detergents.
  • Paints, primers and paint stripping agents.
  • It is used in the production of paper.
  • It is found in dried foods, cured meats, fish, cheeses and food preservatives.
  • It is used in pressed wood products as an adhesive or glue.
  • Medications used for dental treatment, wart removal, orthopaedic casts etc.
  • As an embalming solution for preservation of organic material.
  • Primarily, it is used to treat fabrics. Fabrics get the characteristics below because of the use of
  • formaldehyde in them:

*Anti wrinkle

*Chlorine resistant

*Stiffening on lightweight nylon knits

*Mildew resistant

*Moth proof

*Waterproof finishes

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 produce 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 the nerve endings causing skin rashes.

Symptoms of Formaldehyde Allergy

The severity of the symptoms depends on the exposure. The lesser the exposure, the milder the symptoms. Some of the symptoms are as follows:

      • Burning sensation in the eyes, nose and throat on exposure to the gas.
      • Shortness of breath or wheezing.
      • Tightness of chest.
      • Skin rashes.
      • Fatigue.
      • Headaches.

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 may cause this. 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.

People who are extremely sensitive may even react to the strong smell of the residual gas left behind from formaldehyde.

Larger doses, if ingested, can prove fatal and cause severe pain and damage to the gastrointestinal tract along with loss of consciousness etc.

Diagnostic Test

The most popular allergy test in the case of the said irritant is the patch test. A patch containing the allergen is stuck to the back of the individual suspected to have the allergy. If symptoms appear within a period of 72 hours then the allergy is confirmed. Patch testing of the commercial solution formalin is done using a 2% aqueous solution of formalin.


  • 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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