Am I allergic to sheepskin?
When buying a rug that originally comes from an animal, many ask themselves if this is something they can endure or withstand. Many people today suffer from different kinds of allergy – or do they?
Many mistake common sensitivity for allergies which makes them believe that certain foods or textiles is bad for their health. But allergy is in fact something that is passed along in your genes, while sensitivity to wool, e.g., is just a reaction to the rough texture of the wool.
How do I know if I am allergic to wool?
There is a very simple and easy way to find out if you are allergic to wool or sheepskins. Put on a blouse of thin fabric and take a wool sweater on over the blouse. If your skin starts to itch, get rash and so on, you might be allergic and should take a test at the doctor’s office. If you don’t feel a thing or if you just feel a little uncomfortable without getting a rash, then it’s not allergies but common sensitivity to the rough wool fibers.
Am I allergic to lanolin?
Lanolin is a wool wax. It is a protective layer that covers every strand of sheep hair on the sheepskin. Lanolin is a complex substance and is often added to cosmetics and ointments for tis moisturizing properties. Lanolin comes directly from nature and has many good qualities. Lanolin allergy is very rare, and many think they have lanolin allergies while they are actually ‘just’ sensitive to wool or their surroundings.
Studies have found that merino wool did not cause reactions in children or any age group. The studies showed that super fine merino wool actually produces less irritation in infants than cotton clothing. Now that is interesting!
Can sheepskins or wool allergy cause asthma?
If you google sheepskins and allergies, you will quickly find articles that claim that sheepskins can cause allergies and asthma because of the thick wool that can contain many different kinds of bacteria or microbes that aren’t good for your health.
An animal skin might be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments. But this is sadly a very one-sided and negative approach to understanding sheepskins and how they work.
A German researcher, Dr. Christina Tischer, from Helmholtz Zentrum München Research Centre, found that sheepskin rugs protect babies against asthma, because infants who sleep on animal skin are less likely to develop allergies later in life.
The study studies 2441 healthy German babies until the age of 10 and showed that babies who slept on natural sheepskin in their first 3 months were 79% less likely to have developed asthma by the age of 6. By the age of 10, these children were 41% less likely to have developed asthma. The numbers speak for themselves but let’s try to understand the study further.
Sheepskins are good for your health
Microbes – tiny organisms too small to see – found in sheepskins or animal skins (e.g., dogs) could help protect against asthma and allergies by strengthening the immune system. Today we are all too aware of keeping a clean house and this can in fact trouble our immune system. Too much cleanliness means that we are no longer exposed to bugs that help our immune system.
Let me make an example for you; picking up food from the floor, keeping a dog and regular kissing relatives are some of the best ways to ward off allergies, because they expose us to bugs, that strengthen our immune system.
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