“I’ll take ‘Allergen of the Year’ for $1,000…”

Answer: What is formaldehyde?Jeopardy 1

Since 2000, the American Contact Dermatitis Society names an “Allergen of the Year” to draw attention to chemicals often causing contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is an allergy that has a different mechanism than allergies like hayfever or peanut, which are often immediate in the onset of symptoms. Contact dermatitis is a delayed allergic reaction and usually arises 24-72 hours after exposure. It produces an itchy red rash that can blister, and it often takes several days to weeks for the rash to dry up and flake off.

Formaldehyde was announced as the 2015 Allergen of the Year in the journal Dermatitis. Formaldehyde is used as a preservative in numerous household products. It can be found in shampoos, lotions, cleaning products, cosmetics, fabric softeners and wrinkle-free clothing. It is also found in furniture and a variety of construction materials like wood flooring and paint. It is estimated that 20% of our hygiene products contain a formaldehyde releasing preservative.  A CDC fact sheet on formaldehyde can be found here.

When contact dermatitis occurs, patch testing (various allergens are taped to one’s back for several days) is the diagnostic procedure of choice when identification of the causative agent is not obvious. Once the chemical is identified, avoidance is key to prevent recurrences.

Past Contact Dermatitis Society Allergens of the Year:

  • 2000 Disperse blue dyes
  • 2001 Gold
  • 2002 Thimerosal
  • 2003 Bacitracin
  • 2004 Cocamidopropyl betaine
  • 2005 Corticosteroids
  • 2006 Paraphenylenediamine
  • 2007 Fragrance
  • 2008 Nickel
  • 2009 Mixed dialkyl thiourea
  • 2010 Neomycin
  • 2011 Dimethyl fumarate
  • 2012 Acrylates
  • 2013 Methylisothiazolinone
  • 2014 Benzophenones
  • 2015 Formaldehyde

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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to create a doctor-patient relationship with any reader. If you need personalized medical advice, contact your primary care physician or other physician in your community.


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