Wool is a type of clothing material taken from sheep. It includes natural oil called lanolin that is responsible for causing wool allergy in some highly sensitive individuals. Those who experience allergic reactions to lanolin in wool can also suffer the same reactions upon exposure to other products that also contain lanolin.
Symptoms of wool allergy
- Skin irritation occurs after direct contact which manifests as hives and rashes.
- Eye irritation can also occur during an actual allergic reaction to wool. This can occur in the form of itchiness, redness and puffiness of the eyes.
- Nasal issues such as nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and other respiratory issues can occur. These might be due to other chemicals present in the wool.
Sensitivity to wool
Even though a lot of individuals are sensitive to wool, studies suggest that an actual wool allergy is uncommon. Some individuals who claim to have wool allergy simply have sensitive skin. With this in mind, it is vital that the individual should undergo testing to determine if he/she has wool allergy or sensitivity to wool before attempting any treatment.
Testing for wool allergy
The ideal way to determine if an individual is sensitive to wool is to wear a layer of clothing between the skin and the wool clothing. If there are no allergic symptoms, it indicates that the individual only has sensitivity. It also means that he/she can continue using products that contain wool as long as it doesn’t come in contact with the skin.
In case an allergic reaction occurs, even if the wool did not come in direct contact with the skin, a doctor should be consulted in order to undergo a patch test. The test involves the use of wool alcohols to check if the individual has wool allergy.
Substances mistaken to trigger wool allergy
Irritation caused by clothes with rough fabrics can occur among those who have wool sensitivity. The roughness and quality of the wool depends on how it was combed and spun. Take note that wool combing removes the short and weak wool fibers. If this is not properly done, the weak fibers will stick out of the finished product. These are the miniature strands that poke the skin, thus causing irritation.
There are various chemicals that are used to remove the oils, clean the wool and add coloring to it. Some individuals complain about wool allergies but oblivious that their allergic reaction was instigated by the chemicals used in processing wool. Remember that both organic and synthetic dyes can trigger an allergic reaction. It is important to note that even natural dyes are not completely safe.
Sources of wool allergy
- Wool clothing particularly scarves, sweaters, socks, bonnets and gloves
- Cosmetic products and personal products that contain lanolin
- Wool wax
Treatment of wool allergy
There is no permanent treatment for wool allergy. Nevertheless, antihistamines and allergy shots can be administered to alleviate the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Individuals with wool allergy must avoid products that contain wool. In addition, it is best to avoid products that contain lanolin which is natural oil present in wool.