Could You Be Allergic to Newspapers?
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.
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.
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.
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