Monitor the health of your community here

You most likely know fiberglass as the fluffy pink or yellow insulation used in your home. Fiberglass is actually glass in fibrous form, according to its dictionary definition, and it's used in making various products, insulation being a prime one.

It's been extensively studied and deemed safe, but it’s also known that fiberglass can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory tract, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 1.

Who Gets Fiberglass Rashes?

Anyone can have a reaction to fiberglass. That includes construction workers and people who work in factories where it’s manufactured or used to make other products, as well as do-it-yourselfers who take on home improvement projects, according to the New York City Department of Health 23.

Keep in mind that fiberglass dust is created any time fiberglass is cut, trimmed or sawed into — like when making the opening for a new or bigger window for your home — explains the Illinois Department of Public Health 23.

That’s why, whenever you’re working with fiberglass, it’s smart to always wear a loose long-sleeved shirt, long pants, gloves, eye protection like goggles or safety glasses and a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Other prevention steps include washing exposed skin with soap and water, flushing your eyes with water and washing your work clothes separately from the rest of your laundry. Also, open a window or a door to increase ventilation and reduce dust levels in your work area. Afterward, clean up with a shop vacuum after wetting the dust and fibers—wetting them keeps them from going airborne.

Despite all these safety precautions, you could still develop a reaction, sometimes called a fiberglass rash. “Fiberglass will cause skin and mucous membrane irritation particularly with fibers that are 5 microns in diameter or greater,” says James Lockey, MD, professor emeritus in the Department of Environmental Health at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine 23.

That’s almost too small for the naked eye to see. So while you might not notice fiberglass fibers on your skin, here’s how to recognize a reaction to them and find relief.

Read more: 10 Foods That Are Bad For Your Skin

  • Anyone can have a reaction to fiberglass.
  • Keep in mind that fiberglass dust is created any time fiberglass is cut, trimmed or sawed into — like when making the opening for a new or bigger window for your home — explains the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Signs of a Fiberglass Rash

Signs & Symptoms of Perfume Allergies

Learn More

Getting a strong irritant like fiberglass on your skin, even just one time, can provoke a reaction called irritant contact dermatitis, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) 456. You might notice these signs right away or within a few hours:

  • Burning, stinging or itching skin
  • Red and swollen skin, signs of inflammation
  • Fluid-filled blisters
  • Pain when you touch the area

Symptoms can get worse with every contact you have.

Read more: 6 Skin Care Ingredients to Avoid

Fiberglass Allergy and Other Effects

A true fiberglass allergy is rare and more likely due to sensitivity to chemicals used in the making of the fiberglass, according to a September 2011 report in Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology. This is called allergic contact dermatitis, according to the AAD, and it often takes years of exposure before it develops.

However, more than your skin can be affected. The effects of fiberglass fibers in the air can irritate your eyes, nose and throat. Significant exposure can aggravate asthma or bronchitis, according to the New York City Department of Health 2. Although long-term effects of fiberglass exposure aren't known, the good news is that studies of people who routinely work with fiberglass have not shown any increased risk for serious health conditions, like lung disease, cancer or allergies 2.

However, the ADD points out that you’re at higher risk for contact dermatitis if you have asthma, hay fever or eczema.

Read more: 10 Recipes for Glowing, Healthy Skin

  • A true fiberglass allergy is rare and more likely due to sensitivity to chemicals used in the making of the fiberglass, according to a September 2011 report in Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology.
  • This is called allergic contact dermatitis, according to the AAD, and it often takes years of exposure before it develops.
  • However, the ADD points out that you’re at higher risk for contact dermatitis if you have asthma, hay fever or eczema.

Fiberglass Itch Relief

A Bird Allergy With a Skin Rash

Learn More

There are many ways to soothe a mild reaction, including an over-the-counter cortisone cream applied twice a day for a week and once a day for another week or two, according to the AAD. An antihistamine can relieve itch, though you’ll need a non-drowsy formula during the day because regular formulas can make you sleepy.

If you’re having a severe reaction, such as widespread swelling or oozing blisters, or if even mild symptoms don’t clear within a few weeks, see a dermatologist for more intensive treatment. Your dermatologist can also suggest ways to better protect yourself from a fiberglass rash in the future and, if needed, run tests to see if you have a fiberglass allergy.

  • There are many ways to soothe a mild reaction, including an over-the-counter cortisone cream applied twice a day for a week and once a day for another week or two, according to the AAD.
  • Your dermatologist can also suggest ways to better protect yourself from a fiberglass rash in the future and, if needed, run tests to see if you have a fiberglass allergy.
×