Yes…I REALLY am Allergic to Cardboard & Other Strange Things

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Last Updated on March 22, 2023

Did you know that some people are allergic to cardboard? As odd as it sounds, a cardboard allergy really is a thing. You can be allergic to cardboard because of the pulp and other waste materials that make it up or even the adhesive that holds it all together. Read on to learn more about cardboard allergies.

Cardboard Allergy

Are you laughing yet? We moved 2.5 years ago for the first time in nearly two decades. After packing up everything I became crazy inflamed all over. I mean ALL OVER. My face was red and puffy and my arms had all sorts of bumps. My throat felt tight and my skin was tingly. It wasn’t until we moved and unpacked that it dawned on me maybe the cardboard was causing a reaction. This was definitely a new thing for me!

So – off to Google I went. My suspicions were confirmed and my husband just rolled his eyes…another allergy. Cardboard allergies do exist!

Allergic to Cardboard

Since coming to terms with my autoimmune disease, I have researched a lot and learned that those of us with compromised immune systems can often develop new and even weird allergies, such as the one I have with cardboard.

A few months ago I read in one of my favorite go-to books The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body that Dr. Sarah Ballantyne also has a cardboard allergy! WHAT?! I squealed with “delight” when I showed my husband. See honey – I am NOT crazy!

Carboard Rashes

Cardboard allergies fall under a type of contact dermatitis. When you come in contact with cardboard, you may experience inflammation with your skin like I do. Symptoms can include flaking of skin, blistering and itching and general redness and irritation.

Cardboard Mites

Cardboard mites are another reason some people might experience what seems like an allergic response to cardboard. What are cardboard mites? Cardboard mites are tiny insects that sting and bite frequently. A skin infection caused by cardboard mites can appear as a rash or look like a series of small bug bites.

Allergy to PTBP (Cardboard Glue)

People who experience reactions or allergies to cardboard sometimes are not allergic to the actual cardboard.  The glue or resin that’s used to bind the cardboard together can also be the culprit. The glue/resin that holds cardboard together is known as P-Tertiary-butylphenol formaldehyde resin (PTBP).

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PTBP is also used in some plastics, plywood, and other goods. People who suffer with cardboard allergies are sometimes also allergic to other things that contain PTBP.

Here are some other things I have pretty major reactions to now:

  • Pencil shavings
  • Shredding paper (the actual act of shredding it throws me into a crazy allergic reaction)
  • Pencil eraser residue (we homeschool, so it is EVERYWHERE!)
  • Chamomile and everything in the Ragweed Family
  • Mangoes (did you know you can have a poison ivy type of reaction to mangoes? Yea, I didn’t either!)
  • Air fresheners (do not invite me to your house if you have plug-ins)
  • Makeup – I get rashes around my eyes

It is pretty insane. My friends and I laugh at it; I feel like I am allergic to everything. My face swells up, I get headaches, itch all over, and if it is severe enough my throat starts to feel tight.

Cardboard Allergy FAQ

If you think you might be allergic to cardboard, you might be asking yourself some questions. Here’s some helpful information about cardboard allergies.

Why does cardboard break me out?

Cardboard is made from waste fibers and wood pulp along with grass, hay and other materials that are often discarded. There are also adhesives to keep it all binded together. There are many things in cardboard that can cause rashes and allergic reactions.

If I am allergic to cardboard, does that mean I cannot touch it?

Whether or not you can come into contact with cardboard depends on the severity of your reaction. I have to touch cardboard boxes when I am packing up boxes to ship out from Daily Skill Building orders.

Sometimes my hands get irritated and I will wear gloves. Other times there is too much cardboard in a room and not enough circulation and my face becomes inflamed and my throat gets irritated. I know my body and watch for the signs and then distance myself from it when it gets bad.

What does a cardboard allergy look like?

After being exposed to cardboard, a red, itchy rash may form where your skin came into contact within 6 to 12 hours. A cardboard reaction may get worse over the next 48 to 72 hours and you might develop eczema or a severe skin irritation. Stay away from cardboard and it will eventually go away. You can also take an antihistamine like Benadryl to spped along your recovery.

Cardboard Dust Causes Problems Too!

Did you know that cardboard dust can also cause allergic reactions, headaches, migraines, bronchitis, bacterial infections, conjunctivitis and sore throats? Yep – it’s true! Breathing dust from the fine fibers that make up cardboard and sanitary tissue products like toilet paper and paper towels over an extended period can pose a risk to your health.

In Conclusion

Cardboard allegies are in fact real. The best way to avoid a cardboard reaction is to avoid cardboard. When it’s not possible to avoid cardboard, try wearing gloves. Also, be sure to keep the room well ventilated if you are in a space with cardboard boxes.

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