What is an allergy?
An allergy is your immune system’s reaction to something that’s typically not harmful, also referred to as an allergen. While common allergens include grass, pollen, and dust, some people may be allergic to certain fabrics such as polyester.
Allergies are quite common. It’s believed that genes and the environment are contributing factors. If both your parents have allergies, there’s a good chance that you’ll have them, too.
People who have allergies are often bothered by more than one thing. Allergic reactions commonly include:
In more severe cases, you may experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction that can be life-threatening.
Allergies are diagnosed with skin and blood tests. Treatments include avoiding the allergen, taking medications, and getting allergy shots.
An allergy to polyester is a type of fabric allergy, also referred to as textile dermatitis. It occurs when your skin changes after coming into contact with certain clothing or other fabrics.
The textile fibers or the fabric may cause the skin irritation, or more commonly, a contact allergy to the chemical additives used to process the fabric. This can include laundry detergent and the dye that textile manufacturers use.
Perspiration or animal furs caught in between the woven fibers of the fabric can also cause a skin reaction.
The symptoms of a polyester allergy, like most contact allergies, show predominantly on the skin.
If you suspect you have an allergy to polyester, keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- rashes from areas that came in contact with polyester
- skin tenderness
- an abnormally warm feeling on your skin
- red marks on your legs
- hives around the upper body
- hands turning bright red in color
- mild to severe itching
Other than skin reactions, fabric allergies can result in:
- tightness or pain in the chest
- breathing difficulties
Fabric allergy symptoms can be made worse by:
- overheating of the skin
- obstructed skin ventilation
- tight clothes
- poor hygiene
- too much moisture
Until proper diagnosis can be reached, the preferred treatment is to avoid the irritant.
The best way to avoid the symptoms you experience from polyester is to avoid the fabric. Look at the content labels on any fabric product you buy, including these items that often contain polyester:
- exercise clothing
- shirts and blouses
- khaki pants
- toys that have hair or fur
If you suspect you have an allergy, describe your symptoms and express your concerns to your doctor. Many people have found relief in products available at most drugstores. These include:
- hydrocortisone cream
- steroid cream
- calamine lotion
- topical corticosteroid cream
Your doctor can recommend a specific type of OTC medication if you ask them. If your doctor suggests using these products, they may also suggest you follow several steps before applying treatment to your skin:
- Wash your skin thoroughly with soap and warm water. Use a mild soap to avoid harsh chemicals that may worsen allergic reactions.
- Apply wet compresses on the area to soothe the skin and bring down the redness.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after applying any topical cream or lotion.
If you fear you’re allergic to polyester, look for fabric material alternatives such as:
- wool (for fixtures like carpets)
- other natural fibers
It’s very difficult to identify a polyester allergy. Often an individual’s skin reaction isn’t to the polyester itself but to the dye used in manufacturing the item.
If you’re having an allergic reaction, whether or not you feel that polyester is the culprit, schedule an appointment with your doctor to determine if testing or other medical procedures are warranted.