What is Polyester?
Polyester is a long-chain synthetic polymer comprising of 85% ester. It is chemically produced from the reaction between the purified terephthalic acid (PTA) or its dimethyl ester dimethyl terephthalate and dihydric alcohol/mono-ethylene glycol (MEG). Polyester fibers/fabrics are characterized by resistance to stretching, shrinking, wrinkle, mildew, and abrasion; thus, can be easily washed and dried while retaining their original shape. This makes polyester fabrics to be widely used in textile industries for their strength and durability, which is suitable for outdoor clothing and designed for harsh climates. Nevertheless, polyester materials are known to cause significant allergic reactions among some people.
Causes of Polyester allergies
Allergic reactions emanating from polyester fabrics are caused by exposure to the chemicals used in the industrial production of the polyester material. Exposure to polyester allergens occurs through:
- Skin contact from wearing various kinds of polyester clothes like shirts, blouses, trousers, etc.
- Inhalation of polyester fibers
Who are at Risk?
- People who are frequently exposed to various polyester textile fabrics including clothing, beddings, etc.
- Individuals sensitive to different allergic reactions from certain chemicals, foods, pollen, etc.
- Persons with low levels of hygiene who also suffer from traumatic skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema etc.
- Children are the highest at risk due to immature immune system to fight allergic reactions
- Obese people have higher risks of polyester allergies as their skin has increased surfaced lipids
- Eczema/contact dermatitis
- Mild to severe itching, tenderness/inflammation, and abnormal sensational burning of the skin
- Rashes and abrasions from the areas of the skin in contact with polyester
- Respiratory difficulties characterized by shortness of breath, chest tightness/pain
- Swelling in the whole body or in certain parts
Polyester allergy symptoms may worsen due to wearing tight clothes, excessive moisture, overheating of skin, leaching of dyes from the fabrics (hyperhidrosis), poor hygiene, and obstructed ventilation, or conditions of the skin that results from trauma/friction.
Diagnosis and Prevention
Whenever you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms through exposure to polyester fabrics, it is important to seek medical attention from an allergist or dermatologist for an appropriate diagnosis. Polyester diagnostic tests may involve intradermal tests, scratch tests, and/or patch tests. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends the use of the patch test to diagnose polyester allergies due to its simplicity and safety. A doctor may prescribe hydrocortisone creams, steroid creams, calamine lotions, and antihistamine drugs to minimize and relief the severity of polyester allergic reactions. With no current treatments available for polyester allergy, some of the preventive measures on how to avoid and reduce the exposure to polyester materials include:
- Avoid using fabrics or materials made of synthetic polyesters
- Get rid of detergents, fabric fragrances, and softeners when washing fabrics
- Purchase polyester-free fabrics from manufacturers dealing with 100% organic and allergic-free apparels