General Question

poofandmook's avatar

Is it likely that one could develop an allergy to laundry detergent in a week or less? Or to a soap in just a few months?

Asked by poofandmook (17230 points ) April 18th, 2014

All of a sudden this week I started feeling itchy on my back, then my right arm (which has developed a small rough patch about the size of a fingertip), a little on my neck, my stomach (another rough patch slightly bigger than the one on my arm) and a lot on my chest and abdomen (a third rough patch, larger but still quite small). I even have small bumps in a few places that you can’t really see but I can feel. I have unconsciously scratched enough to cause rashes.

The only thing I’ve changed is that I started using the body wash from Christmas (one of those seasonal scents from Bath and Body Works) again… same one, not a new one. I’ve been using the same detergent for years, and always do an extra rinse cycle. I haven’t eaten anything different. I thought it was dry skin because I have been lax about lotioning after my shower but the day it started was the first day I lotioned again… and I use Gold Bond coQ10, not a heavily perfumed thing.

I also thought maybe I picked up fleas from the spay/neuter clinic on Monday… but my other cats, the cat that was operated on, and my husband are all itch-free. I can’t think of a single change that I’ve made that I could be allergic to.

Any thoughts on this sudden itchiness and the few patches of dry skin that are still dry even after putting lotion on?

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25 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

You don’t have a skin allergy until you suddenly do. AS one ages, they mysteriously show up.

poofandmook's avatar

What makes it difficult to nail it on detergent or soap though, (or really anything for that matter), is that while my legs have been a little itchy, it’s almost exclusively been my back, chest, and upper arms. Everything under a t-shirt. Logically then, if it were my clothing, it would be anything under pants, socks, and underwear too, but those areas aren’t a problem.

cazzie's avatar

is the fragrance a new one that you are using with your body wash?

Cruiser's avatar

I did a search and there are a lot of people who report rashes from using their products. I also found this on Ehow about chemical commonly found in bath soaps. Stop using it and see if the rash clears up. You may want to ask your doctor if taking Benedryl will help you mitigate the rash.

Propylene Glycol

Also used in industrial antifreeze products, propylene glycol is a major ingredient in many deodorants, shaving gels, moisturizers and shampoos. It has humectant properties that help to make the bath and body products glide over the skin and retain moisture over time. Many dermatologists think this chemical additive is responsible for the majority of skin irritation cases. Some of its side effects may include rashes and dermatitis, as well as kidney and liver problems.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Any new shirts in the wardrobe?

poofandmook's avatar

No new shirts. No new ANYTHING. I am a creature of habit.

I think I might finally have to cave and see a dermatologist. Ugh.

Buttonstc's avatar

You might want to consider seeing an Allergy specialist for a comprehensive work up.

There is the concept of something called Total Allergy Load. Its kind of like a bucket which finally overflows (the symptoms).

There is a delicate balance between your body’s immune response and the sum total of all the things to which you react. Everything has a cumulative effect until a tipping point is reached.

That’s how something could have been seemingly well tolerated in the past and you’re having an obvious reaction to it now. That’s why I say “seemingly”. It just means that you were below the threshold at the time and now that’s no longer the case.

Your total allergy load in the past was different from now and something pushed you over that tipping point.

Here’s one link which outlines the basics. An Allergist obviously has a more comprehensive and sophisticated understanding but this kind of gives you the basic idea.
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http://www.dustfree.com/support/iaq-info/understanding-allergies
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A Dermatologist can deal with the obvious symptoms currently present.

But I would strongly advise you see an Allergist to address the total picture.

Pandora's avatar

I would change my soap to dove soap for sensitive skin, and you may try giving your clothing an extra rinse in case your washer isn’t rinsing well or maybe you are over loading the wash or using too much detergent. Also stay away from scented dryer sheets.
Change your detergent to detergents that have no perfumes or dyes.

If none of those things help than you may want to get allergy test done. If eczema or asthma or hives runs in your family, than more than likely you are simply developing an allergy. It could be possible that you are even developing an allergy to your pets. Or even to any shampoos you are using on them. Cats like to lick themselves clean and people often think they are allergic to their hair and it may well be their saliva.
As already pointed out. Allergies tend to develop as we age or get less for some as they age.

cazzie's avatar

There are sensitisers in fragrances. Their effects can build up over time. If someone’s immune system is compromised, or changed, (like during pregnancy) the symptoms crop up. Get rid of all frangrances in your personal care products and see if your skin clears up. If you have broken the skin with your itching and it is infected and topical antibiotics aren’t helping, go to the doctor, you may need oral antibiotics.

The tipping point analogy is a good one. My doctor told me it was like a full cup that was over flowing with the addition of any new substance my body was trying to treat as a toxin.

What the doctor will try first is antihistamine, possibly. If the problems get worse or don’t improve, they will try steroids, usually topical. Neither of these treatments will cure your problem and they only mask the symptoms. In fact, topical steroids will thicken your skin.

In the mean time, avoid really hot showers. Don’t scratch.

I had peri-orbital ezcema and it looked exactly like this: http://cfs12.blog.daum.net/image/27/blog/2008/10/29/16/49/49081590734ce

poofandmook's avatar

I’m going to pick up some Benadryl today at least for the weekend because I am Miserable with a capital M.

I will look for different soaps… I’m actually allergic to Dove deodorant so it’s probably not a good idea to try the soap, which is unfortunate because a lot of people have suggested it.

And then I might cry because I love how I and my bathroom smell fabulous after a shower.

But wouldn’t it be more likely to have this everywhere I use the stuff? Same with detergent? That’s what’s really throwing me off about this… the fact that except for a random itch here and there, the problem is almost totally localized to my upper arms, neck, chest, and lower abdomen.

Pandora's avatar

People break out in rashes with some deodorants because it clogs your pores. But if you want to try a cleanser that is guaranteed not to cause any reaction and if often prescribed by doctors, than buy Cetephyl cleanser and you can buy the lotion too to apply after the shower. It is designed for people with eczema. You rub the cleanser on and wipe it off. Don’t buy the cetephyl, soap. I find it will actually dry your skin.

Also don’t where any synthetic clothing. They will cause you to itch more. Only wear cotton. It allows your skin to breath. My husband recently found out he is allergic to those so call breathable sport shirts that are suppose to wick your sweat away. All of his clothing is cotton now except for coats and things that don’t actually touch his skin. He has not broken out since he stopped wearing synthetic clothing.

You can also try taking a benedryl pill at night to help you sleep comforabbly, and if you want an anti itch cream, see if you can find one with at least 2% Hydrocortisone. Most over the counter only have 1%. Buy only the creams. The gels and sprays will also dry your skin. They work better for a bug bite. Not for large rashes.

These are all the things I have done for myself and for my daughter who has really bad eczema. These were all things recommended by dermatologists for her to do when she only had a mild case of it. When it was worse, she would have to get prescribed medications and steroid shots. The cetaphyl washes are a life time routine with her as are how we washed her clothing and she also has to wear only cotton.

Pandora's avatar

Oh, almost forgot. If you have this rash really bad, then see a dermatologist. It can become infected by you scratching and make it spread. Also don’t see your regular doctor. Over the years I have found that they usually under-medicate rashes and only end up prescribing over the counter stuff. A dermatologist understands your frustration and will usually give you really good stuff to help cure it a lot faster, plus they can help you find out what you are allergic too.

cazzie's avatar

The area of the rash doesn’t always correlate to the surface the irritant touches. It’s usually much more complicated than that. I wasn’t putting irritants around my eyes, but that is where my eczema was. I’m sorry if this turns out to be a perfume problem and you miss the smell in your bathroom, but it really is a small price. You do sound so miserable. Good luck. Please see your doctor if symptoms persist.

Cruiser's avatar

@poofandmook The areas you describe that are rashed would coincide with areas that would be the easiest to wash and get the most friction thus the most exposure to the offending irritant. I might also suggest using Ivory soap which is one of the least irritating soaps on the market that I know of and avoid long hot showers until the rash clears up.

cazzie's avatar

I’d even be careful with Ivory soap. I believe it is fragranced and contains ‘gerinol’ (it smells like roses) and it is a very common allergen. Find some unscented, olive oil soap. Probably on the bottom shelf of your grocery store with a name brand you never heard of.

poofandmook's avatar

Here’s a new wrench in the gears… Benadryl did nothing to relieve the itch.

poofandmook's avatar

And it’s worse at night.

cazzie's avatar

@poofandmook Not a wrench at all. All that means is that your rash isn’t a histamine reaction, and it was very unlikely that it was anyway. You know now it isn’t hives, but eczema. You can take something with Phenergan. It will help by providing some night time sedation. Ibuprofen PM might be another option for a better night’s sleep. Its ‘PM’ or sleep-aid is essentially Phenergan or something similar.

Here is another helpful website to read: http://www.familydoctor.co.nz/index.asp?U=conditions&A=2902

poofandmook's avatar

“nummular eczema”.

He wanted to prescribe prednisone but I’m trying to get pregnant, so instead he gave me a script for a topical steroid.

…which I looked up and I can’t use if I’m pregnant, and I don’t know yet if I am or not.

So I bought Gold Bond eczema relief and it’s just okay. I don’t want to burn off the first few layers of skin every waking moment, at least. Just a few times throughout the day :P

Thanks for all the input.

Cruiser's avatar

@poofandmook That is an allergy of the skin. Did he offer any ideas as to what caused it or why you got it? My search says…

“Avoid triggers that can make your symptoms worse, such as wool, lanolin, and certain foods. Do not take frequent baths. Excess bathing and soap can cause dry skin, which often makes the condition worse. Also, avoid hot water while taking a bath or shower.”

poofandmook's avatar

He went through the whole questionnaire about changes to products and such. He said that once it clears up, if I want, he’ll do the patch test for common allergens.

I’ve actually found so far that a hot shower (albeit not as hot as I prefer) followed by a healthy slathering of the eczema relief cream is the most normal I’ll feel all day, and it lasts for a couple of hours, before I’ll have to slap some more on whatever area has started itching again.

As far as what I’m having a reaction to, I wouldn’t even know where to start to find what’s triggering it.

cazzie's avatar

Have you removed anything from your routine?

Buttonstc's avatar

You really do need to see a competent Allergist and get comprehensively evaluated.

He will obviously also be well versed in what needs to be avoided for those who are pregnant.

Well trained specialists in certain fields exist for a reason. They have more knowledge and experience than regular docs.

poofandmook's avatar

@cazzie: Actually, yes. I’d stopped the full-body lotion routine post-shower, as it was getting warmer and my skin wasn’t dry all the time the way it gets in winter. It was maybe 2 weeks without it. I’m seriously wondering if somehow, that lotion routine somehow kept this at bay and stopping opened the flood gates.

@Buttonstc: Yeah, I know… problem is that it’s $50 a pop for specialists under my insurance and I’ve asked around and have literally no recommendations for a good allergist. It’s a little steep for my budget to pay that much per visit while playing “eenie meenie miney mo” with a list of allergists… while concurrently purchasing $10/8oz. bottles of the only thing giving me daily relief.

cazzie's avatar

@poofandmook what you have isn’t dry skin, it is ezcema. You need to stop using fragranced products now.

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