Allergic Effects of Exercising with Spandex & Polyester

If you have a known spandex allergy, read clothing labels carefully when shopping for workout duds.
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With the increase of people participating in exercise activities, more active wear is being manufactured with different fabric types and blends. People who have allergic reactions to certain types of fabrics, such as spandex and polyester, may experience symptoms while exercising with active wear that contains these materials. Spandex and polyester are in many types of clothing, but manufacturers are taking greater measures to properly label clothing so you know what fabrics you're buying.

Itching or Rash

    If you have an allergy to spandex or polyester, you may first start to itch at the area of contact. Sweating during exercise may irritate the area more and cause redness with a small localized rash. In some cases, you may experience warmth and tenderness in this area. These reactions typically occur up to 24 hours after exposure and are not life threatening. Your first reaction may be to scratch the itchy spot. Avoid scratching the red area or rash and remove the clothing.

Respiratory Stress or Shortness of Breath

    If you have a more sensitive allergy to spandex or polyester, you may experience a reaction that affects your respiratory system. You may begin to feel the effects of the allergy just minutes after the spandex or polyester is on your body. Shortness of breath and tightness in your chest are additional symptoms you may experience. If you notice any of these symptoms while exercising, stop immediately and consult your physician.


    The most severe and serious form of allergic reaction is anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can cause itchy throat, throat swelling, low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting in reaction to an allergen introduced to the body. This form of allergic reaction is potentially life threatening. Immediate medical attention is needed at this point. If you know you have an allergy to spandex and polyester and have been exposed to it, wearing a medical alert bracelet will help first responders correctly diagnose your condition. Carry an injectable epinephrine (adrenaline) or EpiPen if you think you may be exposed to these fabrics while you are out.

Treatment and Prevention

    Read all clothing manufacturers' labels before buying any active or exercise wear. Avoid polyester or spandex, even if they include a blend of the fabric. If you have a less severe reaction, wash your hands and the area thoroughly before applying any corticosteroid skin cream or ointment. Seek emergency treatment if you are experiencing more severe symptoms of the allergy.

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