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Could You Be Allergic to Newspapers?

Updated on September 8, 2015
Newspaper allergy is more common than you might think.
Newspaper allergy is more common than you might think. | Source

Its a lazy Sunday afternoon as you sip your coffee and grab the paper hoping to see what deals you can catch before work tomorrow. Or maybe you want to know what the heck is going on in the neighborhood and the world at large without the volume going up twenty decibels every time a commercial comes on.

"Achoo!" you sneeze blast your hubby or wife halfway across the room. Or maybe your fingers are suddenly itching up a storm and you have no idea why.

It all began in middle school when my Global Studies teacher sent us home with a weekly assignment; to do a 400 word essay on a political cartoon that correlated with current events. Later that evening as I scoured the newspaper page by page, my fingers started to itch.

I also started to sneeze and sniffle; I rubbed one eye and then it started to itch.

Living with multiple food allergies, I thought nothing of it, but the itchy fingers started getting more annoying and I racked my memory trying to remember if I ate anything I was allergic to—but I hadn’t.

It was that moment that I realized I was having an allergic reaction to newspaper. But then I second-guessed myself, thinking maybe the paper is just making my skin dry? So I grabbed some Eucerin and put some on, but to my dismay the itchy fingers persisted.

That night, I took an Atarax and scratched my fingers until I fell asleep.

My family, who noticed me sneezing and itching, told me it was probably from the dust of the newspaper.

The cause of newspaper allergy is from colophony (rosin) or the soy ink in the newspaper.
The cause of newspaper allergy is from colophony (rosin) or the soy ink in the newspaper. | Source

Living With Newspaper Allergy

They weren't that far off. Now, decades later, I treat my allergy to newspaper like I do with any other environmental allergy. I take precautions when I am forced to come into contact with any kind of newsprint. These precautions allow me to read the newspaper and clip coupons with (almost) no reaction.

If I don't take these precautions, my hands itch really badly, my body breaks out in hives within an hour and I get the same severe symptoms that mimic hay fever.

Sometimes newspaper allergy is from rosin allergy which can be diagnosed by a dermatologist.
Sometimes newspaper allergy is from rosin allergy which can be diagnosed by a dermatologist. | Source

What Materials In The Newspaper Am I Allergic To?

Unfortunately, there are no studies on newspaper allergies; but there is a tiny bit of information on the probable causes of your symptoms.

Rosin allergy, also known as colophony allergy is rare but exists. It is especially prevalent in occupational settings. If you suspect this allergy, you will have to get an allergy patch test from your dermatologist. Be sure to tell your dermatologist about your symptoms and if your test comes back positive, you have your answer. If your test is negative, ask for a referral (if you need one) for an allergist.

Soy is commonly used in a number of foods and over a hundred other ingredients and unexpected products. For those with soy allergies, knowing which products contain soy is half the battle. Since 1997, when soy ink was first introduced in Iowa's newspaper, The Gazette, the 'success' of soy ink (because of its cost and 'positive effect on the environment') made it a staple for newspaper printing. Soy ink became so popular during the past couple of decades that The National Soy Ink Information Center was closed in 2005 because they no longer needed to promote it.

Since soy oil is the primary ingredient in colored and black inks, it causes hand eczema and contact dermatitis in people with severe soy allergies.

Not only do soy allergy sufferers need to be aware of soy ink in newspaper and magazines, but it also turns out that at least 20% of flexographic ink is soy protein (the part of soy that can cause fatal allergic reactions like anaphylactic shock). Flexography is used to print packaging materials such as cereal boxes and other cardboard packaging.

If you suspect soy allergy is the cause of your newspaper allergy reactions, see a board certified allergist to test for soy allergy. If you are diagnosed, be aware that although it is a major lifestyle change, you can still live an amazing life; the key to managing soy allergy or any allergy is education, protective steps prior to handling or avoidance altogether.

Helpful Hint

If there is a statement on the paper about it being 100% post recycled or eco-friendly, there is a very good chance it is printed on with soy ink. The newspaper industry used soy ink since 1979 and since soy ink is considered 'green', it is currently the industry standard as we move towards healthier, 'greener' lifestyles.

Steps To Take If You Are Allergic To Newspaper

  • Use an air purifier with a HEPA filter in the room where you read your paper; this will help lessen the 'dust' from turning pages so that you don't breathe in particles later on.
  • Wear protective nitrile gloves while handling newspaper.
  • Wear a disposable face mask each time you handle newspaper print.
  • Avoid touching your face or scratching an itch once your gloves and mask are on; if you must scratch, do it on top of your clothing or over your mask so there is no direct contact with your contaminated gloves and skin.
  • Take Allegra or soy-free Zyrtec daily as directed by your doctor; this greatly helps for me. Remember, do not take Allegra with orange juice or it loses 80% of its efficacy.
  • Wash your hands often throughout the day and carry lotion with you wherever you go. I bring my own 'Maya safe' soap in travel containers so that I don't use the soap in dispensers in public restrooms. I also like to carry a few pairs of nitrile gloves in my purse in case I have to pump gas; with multiple contact allergies, you can get reactions almost anywhere. In the winter, a travel size lotion is also important to avoid cracked, itchy skin.

© 2013 Maya Marcotte


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    • Mayashappyplace profile image

      Maya Marcotte 2 years ago from NY


      Awww that's rough...I know, sulphur is a hard one. Thank you for sharing that; I was not aware there was a high sulfur content in recycled papers! That makes me think of toilet paper, too, which I know I react to sometimes because of what I'm assuming are soy-based softener derivatives. I hope companies see this and find an allergy-friendly, eco-friendly alternative to soy ink someday. Thank you for commenting and wishing you healing...

    • ainezk profile image

      ainezk 2 years ago

      It's amazing what can you be allergic to, there are so many different allergies.

    • profile image

      Zk 3 years ago

      When I was a tweenager, I started reacting to newspapers - print & the paper itself - allergist figured it was due to the high sulfur content esp in the recycled paper. I'm anaphylactic to sulfur - so no fun at all. I even have to wear an air-purifying respirator 1/2 face mask in towns with pulp & paper mills just to be able to breathe!

      I'm also Ana to soy so soy ink on pkgs make me react with asthma & itchy everywhere .

    • Mayashappyplace profile image

      Maya Marcotte 3 years ago from NY


      Yes, you are either allergic to soy or the trees that create the pulp to make the paper. The easiest way to test is to see an allergist and test for soy allergies. If you don't have soy allergies, its likely from tree pulp or other fillers. I'm sorry you had to go though this, but I definitely understand and sympathize!

    • profile image

      Marge 3 years ago

      I have a terrible red, hot fine rash with some not fine rash areas , very itchy. This is on my forehead,eye lids, small area on my right wrist. I was helping someone unpack from their moving. Most things were wrapped in newspaper. While doing this I was very warm and started to perspire, runny nose. My daughter was there and she also has minor small rash areas that were not exposed. I have not heard of newspaper or ink allergies but am wondering if maybe that is what I have???? Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I'll check it out, and I'll send my Dad that website very shortly. I know he will appreciate it! Thanks.

    • Mayashappyplace profile image

      Maya Marcotte 5 years ago from NY

      Thank you, Kathryn, I hope it is. It is a topic not often heard of or talked about. I'm sorry you and your dad have to deal with such sensitivities; its not easy, but hopefully this knowledge will become more widespread for people with soy or contact sensitivities they are unsure of. Be sure to mention my website to your dad; it's a peanut/soy/tree-nut allergy site more geared towards adults with these food allergies. I hope it helps him (and maybe you even further since I deal with contact chemical sensitivities as well). Thank you so much for stopping by and all the best!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      That is very interesting. My Dad is allergic to soy, but I didn't know that newspaper ink often has soy in it, or that you could react like that to them. I'm glad you discovered the allergy at a young age, and came to know how to deal with it. My main allergies are to chemicals and possibly some kinds of dust (when I worked at Target, dealing with certain boxes made me itchy, and made my eyes water, etc. Very uncomfortable). I hope the right people see this article, because it could be helpful.