Two years ago, I wrote a two-part post about itchy wool. According to my WordPress statistics, it continues to receive a lot of visitors. So I decided to repost! Here’s the first!
I have lost track of how many (non-textile) folks who, while admiring a wool sweater I knit, sadly lament: “Oh, I can’t wear wool; I’m allergic to it.” (Source of pic at left)
What’s the most common description of a person’s claimed allergy to wool? “It itches.” That is not an allergic reaction. Further, there could be other factors one could be reacting to, including (but not limited to): laundry detergent, the dye and/or mordant used to color the yarn, the chemicals used to dry clean the wool, the chemicals involved in original processing the wool, and organic matter (e.g., dust and pollen) remaining in the yarn.
With that in mind, here are allergic reactions to wool:
- If whenever wool touches your skin you develop a bumpy, itchy rash resembling hives or eczema, that could be allergic dermatitis.
- If you’re near wool and your nose starts to drip and itch, that may be allergic rhinitis.
- If you develop pink, itchy, puffy eye irritation after each exposure to wool, that may be an allergic reaction in the form of conjunctivitis.
- If you are driving a friend home and she’s in the front passenger seat of the car and you have a big bag of wool yarn in the back seat and she starts wheezing and having difficulty breathing, she could be having an anaphylactic reaction to wool. Unless someone’s got an epi pin, either the wool or the passenger has to get out of the car. (When this happened to me – I was the driver – I had to strap my precious wool to the top of my car and head for a hospital. In this case, the wool was a blend, and it turned out she was reacting to the angora in the blend.)
So in conclusion, you may be allergic to wool if …
- you start to wheeze, have difficulty breathing, your nose begins to drip or itch or you quickly develop conjunctivitis when sitting in the proximity of wool, or
- you take off your wool clothing to find hives and sores (that weren’t there before you put on the clothing).
If you think you are allergic to wool, you might want to visit your physician and have a skin prick test. You may find you’re allergic to things you would never have suspected!
What about the itching? Ahhh, that’s coming in Part II.