Allergy to Formaldehyde


Allergic reactions can be caused by the chemical reagent formaldehyde due to prolonged exposure to one’s body. Formaldehyde is usually used by textile industries during production, in automobiles and other household production. So the use of such items with direct contact to the body causes such allergic reactions. Its symptoms include rashes, redness, irritations and many others. This allergy reaction is diagnosed by patch testing and it can be treated with local emollients or tropical corticosteroids.


  1. What is formaldehyde
  2. Causes of formaldehyde allergies
  3. Who is at risk
  4. Symptoms
  5. Diagnosis and prevention
  6. References

What is Formaldehyde?

Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling, colorless, and ubiquitous chemical irritant, found both indoor and outdoor; thus, accounting for various occupational and residential environmental hazards. It is regularly used in various industrial processes to manufacture household products and building materials such as such as plywood, fiberboard, glues and adhesives, paper product coating, permanent-press fabrics, chemicals, cosmetics, cleaning products, and preservatives. However, the use of products made from formaldehyde may expose some individuals to allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe, with worsening cases leading to anaphylactic shock and deaths.

Causes of Formaldehyde Allergies

Allergic reactions associated with formaldehyde may be caused by:

  • Skin contact with formaldehyde irritants
  • Inhalation of formaldehyde emissions, fumes, or particles in the air

Who is at Risk?

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), formaldehyde allergy is a common condition that affects almost all classes of people in U.S. However, the people with the highest risk include:

  • People regularly exposed to formaldehyde resins at workplaces such as in textile industry, formaldehyde-based disinfectants in hospitals, etc.
  • People sensitive to other different allergens including pollen, dust mites, certain drugs/medication, foods, chemicals, etc.
  • People who have a low immunity such as infants and children, as well as those suffering from chronic illnesses like asthma, bronchitis, etc.


Formaldehyde is responsible for causing allergic contact dermatitis in those body parts that experience a lot of friction. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Burning sensations/ irritations in the eyes, nose and throat
  • Rashes, redness, itching, and blisters on the skin
  • Chest tightness and wheezing,
  • Fatigue and headaches

Diagnosis and Prevention

It is critical for individuals experiencing sensitivity to formaldehyde to seek immediate medical attention from a qualified allergist in the efforts to manage and prevent the severity of allergic symptoms. Diagnosis involves patch testing to confirm the cause of formaldehyde allergies. Local ointments using topical corticosteroids like hydrocortisone cream may be prescribed to soothe inflammation and reduce allergic reactions on the affected area of the skin.

Some of the recommended prevention measures to minimize or avoid exposure to formaldehyde allergies include:

  • Washing fabrics using warm, soapy water for several times prior using them to reduce formaldehyde emissions
  • Laminate or coat all the edges of furniture made of pressed wood
  • Ensure adequate ventilation and use of protective clothing to minimize exposure/contact to formaldehyde
  • Use textile/clothing made of 100% cotton or silk


Carlson, R., Smith, M. C., & Nedorost, S. T. (2004). Diagnosis and Treatment of Dermatitis Due to Formaldehyde Resins in Clothing. Dermatitis, 15(4):169-175. Retrieved on 7th August, 2017 from

DermNet New Zealand. (2016). Formaldehyde Allergy. Retrieved on 7th August, 2017 from

News-Medical (June, 2016). Formaldehyde Allergy. Retrieved on 7th August, 2017 from

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