Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

About Bleach Allergy:

Many people are susceptible to chlorine or bleach. Chlorine is used in various products as a disinfectant, cleaner and a bleaching agent as well. It is used in a wide range of products like hair colouring and laundry products. Chlorine is also used as a disinfectant in spa baths and swimming pools. Bleach is probably one of the most widely used household chemical in the world. It is used daily to clean clothes, bathrooms, hard surfaces and an array of other items. However, bleach happens to be one of the most common allergens, which can be found in homes across the globe. It has recently been found that children, whose parents use bleach regularly, are more likely to get flu, tonsillitis and other infections, especially ones related to the respiratory tract. Researchers believe that using bleach regularly as a cleaning product can generate volatile airborne compounds, which can potentially damage the lungs, cause inflammation and increase the risk of subsequent infections.

Where are Bleaches Found?

Bleach is found in many household cleaning products, especially in the more aggressive toilet and bathroom cleaners. Hair products like light-hued hair colours, laundry detergents, whitening products, commercial laundry products, medical products like some antiseptic creams and solutions, also contain bleach. Bleach is found in swimming pools and spa baths, which are cleaned using chlorine. Bleach allergy is incurable. Like most allergic reactions, prevention is the best cure for bleach allergy too. One should avoid any contact with bleach to prevent the occurrence of this allergy. They should use alternatives to harsh chemicals to reduce their overall exposure to potentially bleach or chlorine.

What are the Symptoms of Bleach Allergy?

The most common symptoms of a bleach allergy are redness, inflammation and swelling in the exposed area. These symptoms often occur after several hours of bleach exposure, but at times can appear immediately too. It should be remembered that sensitivities to allergies and intolerance greatly differ from person to person. Even bleach sensitivity greatly varies from one individual to another. Ones who are allergic to bleach fumes often display severe symptoms. Uncontrollable itching is another very common symptom of bleach allergy. The area which gets exposed to bleach begins to itch and any attempt to scratch the region causes extreme pain to the sufferer. Severity of bleach allergy depends on factors like age, length of exposure and repeated exposures. For example, only a slight allergic reaction occurs if some amount of bleach gets splashed on the skin and is rinsed immediately. But the severity of the allergic reaction to bleach is far greater if the individual takes a spa bath. This happens because of the high concentration of chlorine in it, and the high temperature of the water in these spa baths. Prolonged exposure to bleach can produce life threatening symptoms for such individuals.

What Causes Bleach Allergy?

The exact cause of bleach allergy is still unknown. But prolonged and repeated exposure to bleach is believed to make a person allergic to it. Those who work in the laundry industry face a high risk of developing bleach allergy. Even homemakers are likely to become allergic to bleach. Some genetic factors also can cause bleach allergy. A child born to parents, who are allergic to bleach, is likely to develop this allergy as they age.

What are the Cures and Treatments for Bleach Allergy?

  • There is no cure for bleach allergy. Treatments for bleach allergy vary according to the patient and the severity of the allergic reaction. 
  • Steroids are commonly used to stop the inflammation occurring with bleach allergy. This treatment is most suitable for patients who can manage taking large doses of steroids for a week.
  • For others who cannot handle a steroidal treatment, cooling lotions is a good alternative treatment for bleach allergy. These help to effectively reduce the swelling and itching caused by the allergic reaction.
  • Applying ice packs to the swollen area is another way of easing the pain caused by a bleach allergy. However, the ice should not be left on for too long, as moisture can actually irritate the area and aggravate the pain from the bleach allergy.
  • The use of bleach and bleach-containing products should be avoided. Protective clothes, gloves and eyewear should be worn at all times when using bleach. Surfaces in the home that have got exposed to bleach should be dried thoroughly to prevent accidental exposure.
Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: April 28, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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