Allergic to Bottled Water: When You Have an Allergy to Plastic Water Bottles

By Kristen Chandler

Allergic reactions to plastic water bottles

Approximately one in 13 children suffers from food allergies. The “Top Eight” (eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and wheat) account for 90 percent of food allergic reactions. Then you have the rarer allergies like those to cinnamon, coffee and corn. It’s not surprising that most food allergy families prepare most of their meals at home. People who suffer from food allergies, especially those with severe allergies, can’t accept just anything from anyone.

So, imagine you’re away from home and you get really thirsty, and someone hands you a bottle of water. You accept it and drink some, but a few minutes later your lips begin to burn and tingle and possibly swell. But is it actually possible for someone to be allergic to bottled water? While it is rare, aquagenic urticaria, or an allergy to water, does exist. However, most allergic reactions people have while drinking water from a plastic bottle are usually the result of an allergy to the plastic and not the water itself.

What Causes an Allergy to Plastic Water Bottles?

With food allergies, it’s usually difficult to pinpoint what in the food causes the allergic reaction. Sometimes people are allergic to the food itself, and sometimes it is the protein in the food that causes the allergic reaction. Where an allergy to plastic water bottles is concerned, it is usually the chemicals found in the plastic that are responsible for the allergic reaction.

Most plastic containers, toys, etc. contain chemicals. These chemicals are used to make the plastic either softer or harder as needed, and also to prevent contamination. However, these chemicals can be just as bad as the contamination they are meant to block.

The two most common chemicals found in water bottles are Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Polystyrene foam (PS) is also used in plastics, but the former two are more likely to be found in plastic water bottles. Also, both Phthalates and BPA have been known to get in the way of hormone production. Disrupted hormone production can reduce fertility and eventually lead to breast, testicular and prostate cancer. Since food allergies affect the immune system, both Phthalates and BPA could cause an allergic reaction or an increase in reactions among food allergic children.

How to Understand Recycling Labels

On recyclable plastic water bottles, you’ll find a triangle with a number in the center. This triangle is usually found on the bottom of the bottle. The number represents not only what the plastic will be recycled into but more importantly what the plastic is made from.

Below is a graphic briefly explaining plastic recycling codes. You can read the full article associated with this graphic here.

understanding plastic water bottle recycling codes

Avoiding Allergic Reactions to Plastic Water Bottles

In order to prevent an allergic reaction to plastic water bottles, of course consider using glass or stainless steel containers instead. But if you do go with plastic, look for BPA- and/or phthalate-free bottles. Also, keep in mind which plastic recycling codes mean what. Numbers 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP) are the best choices. On the other hand, try to avoid numbers 3 (PVC), 6 (PS) and 7, which are the most likely to contain BPA or phthalate. Number 1 (PET or PETE) is a moderate hazard. The chemicals contained in this plastic can break down and leach into the product contents over time.

Prolonged storage or exposure to heat can speed up the chemical breakdown process in plastic. Therefore, you should not store bottled water in places it could be exposed to heat, like in garages or the trunk of your car. Plastic water bottles should not be microwaved either.

Do you have an allergy to plastic water bottles? If so, we would like to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!

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8 thoughts on “Allergic to Bottled Water: When You Have an Allergy to Plastic Water Bottles

  1. I’m 74 and only in last year I have had issues from plastic water bottles. Causes red dry lips and cracking. Took me months to determine the plastic water bottles. Within a few hours of drinking condition starts.

    1. I’m 73 and finally realized that my chapped, dry red lips, in the shape of a circle from where I drink the water, is caused by the plastic water bottle. Now I’m trying to get Reid of the “chapped” area but nothing seems to work. Even a prescription cortisone. What helped you?

  2. This time of year only. I drink water all the time from bottles. My lips tingle and get puffy and feels like an itch. Skin peels off easy.

  3. I get what I call fever blisters from drinking from plastic drink/water bottles. Can feel the reaction within 5-10 minutes of first drink. Don’t drink from them anymore

  4. I’m 56 and started drinking bottled water two years ago and I sweat every day could it be effecting my hormones? It just started one day and hasn’t stopped after a heat type stroke. ?

    1. Good question, Candi. I would think you’d need to be drinking bottled water every day or at least very often for that to be the case, but it sounds like something worth discussing with your doctor.

    2. I am 69 years old. Started drinking lots of bottled water and I have a very dry taste in my mouth. Lips burn and tingle and even get a sore throat. It doesn’t seem to happen if I drink out of a plastic cup only water bottles. Dr says to keep bottled water close by but I feel like ive been walking in a dessert.

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