What are Bleaches?
Bleaching refers to a chemical process commonly used in many industrial processes such as wood pulp or paper industry, laundry to whiten or remove stains from clothing, and skin bleaching products. Bleaches are also used as pesticides and herbicides; and disinfectants to sterilize household items in the kitchen, bathrooms, and swimming pools. Typically, chlorine and peroxide/oxygen-based bleaches are the most common bleaching agents used in clothing industries to remove stains, brighten/whiten fabrics, and disinfect laundry. As a result, some people may develop significant allergies when exposed to bleached clothing products.
What Causes Allergies to Bleaches?
Allergic reactions occur following the exposure to bleaches and the associated products through:
- Skin contact
- Inhalation of bleach fumes in the air
Who is at Risk?
- People suffering from different types of allergic reactions such as certain medications, insect stings, dust mites, certain foods, pollen, and among others have 50% chances of developing allergies to bleaches
- People regularly exposed to the bleach fumes or contact from various household cleaning products such as cleaners and mothers
- People with respiratory problems such as asthma and bronchitis
- Children below the age of 10 are at the most risk when exposed to antimicrobial household cleaning products and frequent visits at swimming pools. In 2015, an occupational and environmental journal found that over 9,000 children of bleach users from Spain, Netherlands, and Finland reported high rates of respiratory infections including pneumonia, and sinusitis.
- Skin redness, inflammation, and itchiness at the site of contact
- Skin lesions, scales, or rashes
- Breathing difficulties characterized by wheezing
- Chest tightness
- Runny nose, sneezing, coughing
- Headache and dizziness
- Long-term exposure may lead to hormonal disruption, reproductive problems, immune dysfunction, and cancer.
Diagnosis and Prevention
If you suspect any severe allergic reaction to bleaches, it is important that you seek immediate emergency care. The allergists will carry out skin or/ and blood tests to diagnose whether you are sensitive to bleaches or not. Using a number of your underlying symptoms, the allergist may prescribe treatment using corticosteroid cream or antihistamines such as diphenhydramine. Moreover, the allergist may recommend certain prevention measures to avoid and reduce the severity of allergic symptoms associated with bleaches including:
- Washing the area affected by irritant using a lot of clean water
- Use alternative cleaning/washing or clothing products to bleaching agents
- Ensure that you only purchase and use bleach-free products, with labeled tags from manufacturers
American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI) (2014).Chlorine “Allergy”: Overview. Retrieved on 4th August, 2017 from http://acaai.org/allergies/types/allergy-myths/chlorine-allergy
University Health News (UHN) Staff. (April, 2017). Are Bleach Fumes Dangerous? Bleach Exposure Increases Risk of Infection in Kids. Retrieved on 4th August, 2017 from https://universityhealthnews.com/daily/eyes-ears-nose-throat/are-bleach-fumes-dangerous-bleach-exposure-increases-risk-of-infection-in-kids/
The Spruce. (May, 2017). The Types of Bleach and Where to Use Them. Retrieved on 4th August, 2017 from https://www.thespruce.com/types-of-bleach-1900685