What Are the Signs of an Allergic Reaction to Clothing?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Signs of an allergic reaction to clothing can include local irritation, redness, and swelling. In addition, hives, itching, and burning pain can also occur. Sometimes, however, the allergic reaction to clothing is actually caused by laundry detergent or dry cleaning solution. Washing the clothing in a mild or hypoallergenic laundry detergent may help, as may wearing clothing that does not require dry cleaning.

Generally, an allergic reaction to clothing can be relieved by an over-the-counter antihistamine. These medications are available in oral or topical form. Although the topical preparations usually work faster, oral antihistamines are more effective in treating a systemic allergic reaction to clothing. A systemic reaction may include swelling of the throat, difficulty breathing, tongue swelling, and chest pain.

On the rare occasion that an allergic reaction to clothing causes a severe systemic reaction, emergency medical attention needs to be sought. When the person has symptoms of throat closing or wheezing, he may be experiencing an anaphylactic allergic reaction, which can be fatal if not treated rapidly, generally in about 15 minutes. Although an allergic reaction to clothing rarely produces such severe manifestations, other allergens, such as bee venom or peanuts, can cause them.


Allergy medications are quite effective when treating allergic reaction to clothing. They can, however, produce side effects, including drowsiness, dry mouth, and urinary retention. In addition, allergy medications such as diphendydramine can cause dizziness, confusion, and blurred vision. Since allergy medications can produce significant side effects, people should not drive or operate dangerous machinery while using these drugs.

People who experience an allergic reaction to clothing should talk to their health care providers, who can determine if the patient should visit an allergist. The allergist may recommend medical tests such as sensitivity screening to determine which component of clothing or fabric the person is allergic to. The allergist will then be able to recommend a treatment plan, which may include medications or injections.

Occasionally, an allergist will suggest that the patient receive scheduled allergy injections to prevent further symptoms of allergic reactions to clothing. The injections are generally administered on a weekly basis, however, each patient is different, and only the allergist can determine the correct timetable for the injections. This type of treatment is generally safe but injections can sometimes cause itching and irritation at the injection site.


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Post 2

@Pippinwhite: Yeah, I know what you mean. Wool does the same thing to me. I just get downright irritable because the itching is so bad.

The only fabric I can rely on 100 percent to tolerate is cotton. Thank goodness there's not a cotton shortage! I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't find cotton T-shirts. I guess I'd have to become a nudist or something.

Post 1

I'm allergic, or at least sensitive, to cashmere. I love the look, but I start itching as soon as I put on the garment. I feel like I've got hair trapped all over me, and even in my nose. It's not a pleasant feeling.

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