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Textiles and Textile Dye and Allergy

During the dyeing process the textile dyes bind to the fibers of the fabric. Sometimes there is a surplus of dye, which is not bound in the fabric’s fibers, and this can bleed onto the skin. Many chemicals are used in the different textile dyes. The chemical dyes that belong to a group called azo dyes are the most allergenic. Azo dyes are mostly to color synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon. These dyes are water soluble; sweat can have the same effect, which leads to the dye coming in direct contact with the skin and increasing the risk of developing an allergy.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom is eczema. The skin is itchy, red and swollen with spots or bumps and possibly also blisters. The eczema usually starts where the clothing has the closest contact with the skin. For example, if the dye of a shirt or blouse is causing the eczema, the inflammation will appear around the armpits and the neck. Hand eczema is also a symptom, especially id\f contact with the dyes is work – related.

How Frequent is it?

Textile dye allergy occurs more frequently in countries with a warm climate. For example, in Italy it is not unusual that 50 out of 1000 eczema patients have textile dye allergy whereas the numbers in India is bound to be higher for the same. This may be due to people sweating more in warmer climates and, as a consequence, greater bleeding of textiles dyes. It may also be due to the greater popularity of synthetic textiles in warmer countries and, with this, the greater exposure to textile dyes.

How is it diagnosed?

Symptoms and diagnosis

If the localization of the patient’s eczema and his or her medical history suggest textile dye allergy, a patch test, also called a plaster test, is done to confirm the diagnosis. In addition to the actual dyes tested small pieces of the item of clothing thought to provoke the allergy can be tested too.

Are there other causes of textile dye allergy?

Some textiles are treated with other chemicals to give a special finish. These chemicals are called Textile Finish Resins. They give textiles bulk or make them water or crease resistant. Textile Finish Resins release formaldehyde and may provoke allergic reactions.

Some textile dyes are used to a limited extent in permanent hair dyes. This means that if a person is allergic to hair dye he or she may also be allergic to textile dyes and vice versa. However, this is seemingly rare.

What can you do yourself?

If you are allergic to textile dyes, you should avoid wearing deeply colored clothing, particularly if the item is directly next to your skin. Choose light-colored clothing and undyed or Herbal dyed clothing with 100% natural fibers (organic herbal dyed clothing products , cotton, linen, silk, wool).

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