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Keep The Itch Away: How To Protect Yourself From Fiberglass And What To Do Should You Be Exposed

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Fiberglass insulation is simple to install, and that makes it a popular choice for homeowners who want to do the work themselves. However, fiberglass is also known for its annoying tendency to cause skin irritation. While the irritation is usually mild, it can cause significant reactions in some people. That's why it's best to prevent the irritating effects of fiberglass insulation by preparing ahead of time. But, if you do find yourself exposed, there are effective home treatments you can use to rid yourself of the itching and burning. Here is what you should know about preventing and treating fiberglass-caused skin irritation:

Why does fiberglass cause skin irritation?

The fiberglass name is an appropriate description of the material. It consists of thin strands of spun glass that are made in the same manner as cotton candy; these fibers are then formed into mats which are attached to paper backings and rolled up for easy transport.

The glass fibers may be tiny, but they are fully capable of causing wounds on a microscopic level. These minute shards of glass penetrate into skin pores and cut through cellular tissues like a surgeon's scalpel. Fortunately, the scale of trauma is small, so no bleeding is seen and its effects aren't life threatening.

However, the skin irritation caused is still significant in some instances. The tiny severed nerves in the skin send pain signals to the brain which are registered as itchy feelings. The itching from fiberglass exposure can be maddening, and in some cases, fiberglass irritation can cause rashes or widespread skin breakouts. In addition, individuals with susceptibility may experience allergic responses to fiberglass. If you have more questions, click here for more information.

How can fiberglass skin irritation be prevented?

Fiberglass irritation is simple to prevent, if you adhere to a few basic principles of self protection. Below are some ways to keep your skin shielded from the tiny strands of glass:

  • Wear clothing that covers your entire body – safely working with fiberglass requires that there be no visible skin exposure to it. Long-sleeve shirts, blue jeans, boots, gloves, hats and face masks are all appropriate to wear when working in an environment containing fiberglass. For extra levels of protection, tape your gloves to your sleeves with duct tape so that none of the fibers can slip through. Try to wear a pullover shirt so that fiberglass doesn't pass between the front flaps of a buttoned-up shirt. In addition, wear a bandana or full hat to keep fiberglass out of your hair.

  • Minimize drafts – keeping the levels of air movement low can also be helpful in protecting your body. Fiberglass strands blown into the air can settle on your head or drift down the back of your shirt.

  • Apply cornstarch powder to your skin – powder provides a layer of slippery protection that prevents glass fibers from snagging your skin and penetrating. Lotion or baby oil may also provide some protection, especially if your skin is excessively dry.

What happens if your skin is irritated by fiberglass?

Despite your best efforts, you may still experience some degree of skin irritation from fiberglass exposure. The good news is that you can successfully remove the irritating fibers and treat your skin at home. Here are a few treatment options:

  • Avoid scratching – though the urge to scratch can be nearly irresistible, the best course of action is to keep your hands off the itchy spots. Scratching only deepens the irritation and further works the fibers into your skin.

  • Take a hot bath and shower – a tub of hot, soapy water will help soften your skin and assist your pores in releasing the tiny strands of glass. However, be sure that you follow-up your bath with a warm shower to rinse off any fibers that may still be on the surface of your skin. Avoid taking a cold shower despite what you may have heard: cold showers do not cause your pores to "shrink", and they don't soften your skin.

  • Take an antihistamine for severe cases – when you experience a strong reaction to fiberglass exposure, over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can help reduce the itching and skin irritation. Be careful when taking antihistamines that you don't drive or operate heavy machinery due to their sleep-inducing effects.