Itchy Insulation

by Sam Samalin, PA-C

Today we have a letter from a concerned reader and possible patient, and owing to patient-doctor confidentiality, I have left out the person’s name.

Dear Doctor Sam,

I’m concerned. I was working in the attic of my house and pulling wires through this pumped-in insulation. I didn’t start itching or coughing and my eyes didn’t get red until the next day. It’s now been a week and I’m still itching.

Any suggestions?

Dear Concerned:

Without seeing a sample of the insulation, I’d suggest that you were probably exposed to a fiberglass based insulation. The first thing you should do when exposed to insulation is to take a cold shower because a hot shower opens up your pores and the glass fibers can enter and cause irritation. Although uncomfortable, the insulation isn’t dangerous (unless you inhale it) because your skin is constantly renewing itself and will expel any foreign particles.

If the itching or the redness in your eyes continues, come over to Urgent Care or to your local doctor. Fiberglass is made of fibers of glass. When you inhale them into your lungs, they are not easily broken down by your body if at all. If you don’t like the idea of getting wood or metal particles in your lungs, then you shouldn’t inhale glass fibers either. For small amounts, you will be fine. You can wear a cheap dust mask to avoid this.

The good news is that it does not cause cancer. It does case skin, eye and lung irritation. I have seen many patients over the years year’s and so far I have not noticed any continuing ill effects.

If it is still itching, and then come in to Urgent Care or go see a doctor if it doesn’t go away.

Fiberglass is probably not that good for you just like many other things you breathe in on a daily basis. I would recommend that next time you work in your attic you wear long sleeves, a dust mask and goggles

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