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What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Detergent?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Many types of detergents, including laundry detergent and dish detergent, can cause an allergic reaction. An itchy rash is a common sign of an allergic reaction to detergent. Other allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, may also occur. In more severe cases, the affected area may also be hot to the touch, and blisters may form. To prevent an allergic reaction, the person will usually need to switch to a different detergent.

An allergic reaction to detergent is often classified as contact dermatitis. The adverse reactions occur because the skin comes in contact with an irritating substance or chemical. Dyes and fragrances are typically the most common causes of detergent allergies. Recognizing an allergic reaction may be difficult, since the symptoms may be similar to other skin disorders.

A rash is one of the most common signs of an allergic reaction to detergent. The skin, usually where it was exposed to the detergent, will usually be red and sensitive. Irritating laundry detergent, for instance, can cause a rash that may cover almost the entire body. An irritating dish detergent, on the other hand, may only affect the allergy sufferer's hands.

The rash associated with this type of allergic reaction will also usually be very itchy. Skin may also feel tight, dry, and cracked. Constant itching and cracked skin can allow bacteria to enter the body, resulting in an infection. Sneezing and itchy, watery eyes may also occur, and these symptoms are typically caused by an allergy to a particular fragrance.

Some people who have an allergic reaction to detergent may also notice that their skin feels warm or even hot. Small blisters may also form. This is typically more common in severe allergic reactions, though. The affected area may also be slightly swollen.

While it is very rare, anaphylactic shock is also possible during a severe allergic reaction to detergent. This is usually very serious, and it can result in the swelling of the face, including the eyes and mouth. Throat swelling during an allergic reaction can lead to breathing difficulties and possibly death.

A medical professional will usually want to do a skin patch test before treatment, in order to confirm his diagnosis. Treating an allergic reaction of this type is usually very simple, and it can be done at home. A topical antihistamine can be applied to an itchy rash, and oral antihistamines can be taken to help relieve severe symptoms.

Preventing an allergic reaction to detergent typically involves removing the offending irritant. This usually means that a person who has an adverse reaction to detergent must change to a different brand or type. Hypoallergenic detergents are usually recommended.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1002036 — On Aug 22, 2019

The first thing a doctor will ask you when you go in for a skin rash is a question about the detergent you are using. By buying chemical-free natural detergents that contain ingredients you can actually read and understand that contain no chemicals instead of the contents with 20 words you can't understand you, will probably find you won't get a rash.

By anon989876 — On Mar 25, 2015

Absolutely, I changed detergents (being cheap) and at first I itched for four days, then I reacted from doing dishes (also bought cheap dish detergent at the dollar store) by getting bright red burning palms of my hands Then my back, stomach, neck, upper arms, upper thighs all got a rash, also some on my calf and forearms, but nothing on my face. It itched so, so, so bad.

I changed detergents and within three or four days, the rash disappeared, but at night I still itched (whoops, I rewashed all my laundry, but forgot to rewash my sheets and socks) and I started breaking out from my knees down. So, yes, you can be. I set up an appointment with an allergist.

By ysmina — On Oct 04, 2013

I'm allergic to dish detergent and most liquid hand soaps. When I use either of these, I get super dry skin on my hands and white flakes/scales in my palms and between my fingers.

At first, I thought that it was an egg allergy and I stopped eating eggs. But the problem persisted. I eventually went to a dermatologist who diagnosed it as contact dermatitis. I have to use all-natural soap without any additives or the dermatitis comes right back.

By bear78 — On Oct 04, 2013

@simrin-- That's highly possible. I recommend changing your sheets and switching to hypoallergenic laundry detergent.

I had a similar experience last year. I too started to itch after changing my laundry detergent. Mine turned into full blown hives soon after. I think the perfumes and chemicals in some detergents cause these reactions. When I switched to fragrance-free, hypoallergenic laundry detergent, my symptoms went away.

If you can change your detergent today and rewash your sheets, towels and clothes, that will be good.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 03, 2013

For the past two days, I've been waking up from bed all itchy. I don't have a rash or anything, it's just an annoying itch. I did change my laundry detergent recently, could I be allergic to it?

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