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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31 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. What have you done to heal the chaffing, tingling etc? Did u see a doctor? I have the same issues been drinking from plastic water bottles everyday. Thank you.

    3. I experienced the same symptoms from water bottles and reusable hard plastic straws. Took forever for me to figure out the connection. I swab the chafed area with prescription strength mupirocin ointment (2%). My dermatologist also suggested using an over the counter hydrocortisone as an alternative.

  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.

  5. I have a severe soy allergy and was told that plastics contain soy, does anyone know which bottled water is safe to drink?

    1. Hi, Rhonda. That’s interesting. I personally hadn’t heard about plastics containing soy, but I’ll definitely look into that. Do you happen to have an online source of information on that? I’ll also check with our team to see if anyone can help answer your question. Thank you for your comment!

  6. I caugh everytime I drink out of plastic bottles and do not do this if I drink out of a can so ususal drink my clear sodas out of alumini instead of plastic but when buy but like others my lips also get extra dry. Was just wondering if I was the only one experience this kind of problem. 62 female

    1. I am so grateful, Cheryl, for you comment. I have been having the awful problem of having my tongue tingle and swell up a little and then I would cough when I drank out of plastic water bottles. I have tried several different brands to see if I could find an answer, but I didn’t find a cure. Then, this evening, I tried the cold tap water in a glass jar. Nothing bad happened. Then I thought that it could be the bottle causing my cough instead of the water. My search has brought me to this site and to your question.

  7. I get reactions from the plant plastic bottles, like Dasani. Even if I put tap water into the bottle and if it’s in there a short time, like a half hour, I get reactions. My joints get swollen and achy. Other plastic seems to be ok so far. I did call up the company to inquire as to what plant they use and they said sugar? I am allergic to soy so I wonder. I also recently discovered I’m allergic to polystyrene. I get swollen, cracked skin from that and the outer layer of skin gets chapped…but it’s on my hand from contact.

  8. Every time I drink from bottled water I start to get really stuffy and my throats gets sore, it’s kinda hard to swallow. It’s very subtle and I often get tonsillitis and it has similar symptoms. But now I’m sure bottled water is the problem now, all other plastic has not affected me in anyway.

  9. Whenever I drink Milo’s sweet tea from a 20 oz. bottle I immediately get a numbing sensation in my upper lip. I’m thinking it might be the bottle because I used to buy the gallon jugs and pour it into a glass with no problems. I’m 40 years old, and my only known allergies are aspirin and shrimp. I also once had a very bad reaction to corticosteroids, but I don’t know if it was a real allergy. I should note that I am on several psychotropic medications for bipolar disorder.

  10. My mom is allergic to plastic water bottles. She figured it out years ago. She is older now and is a widow. She doesn’t like to cook for just herself so she eats a lot of frozen meals for lunch. Her arms and neck have been itching so bad for quite a while now that she practically scratches her skin off and she does tear her skin. Nothing seems to help. She just realized the other day that most of the frozen meals she eats at lunch have plastic bottoms. She is now going to try and find food not in plastic that she can eat easily for lunch. We are both pretty sure that is what has been causing her itching since it didn’t start until she became a widow and started eating frozen meals. Too bad it took us so long to figure it out.

    1. Thank you for this comment! I moved from Utah to Texas 2.5 months ago. Because the tap water here smelled like sulphur and has a different chemical make-up than Utah water, I have been drinking bottled water for the past 2 months. I initially started drinking the Texan Ozarka water bottles, since they were cheapest and then switched to Aquafina since it seemed to be more pure water. Ever since the end of July (when I started drinking only bottled water) I have had this terrible rash. It started as small white circular bumps behind my knees and then spread to my armpits. It would later develop a central red pustule and then become inflamed bright red and blotchy, turning into hives most days. From there it erupted to a full body rash and allergic reaction. The itch is constant and terrible. To the point where you want to grate your skin off. The doctors have had no clue as to what has been causing my rash. I’ve been put on plenty of medications, including topical steroid creams, oral steroid packs, steroid shots, antibiotics, mupirocin cream, first and second generation antihistamines, you name it. The largest struggle is I’m currently breastfeeding my 4 month old baby and have to drink a ton of water to keep up my supply with her demand. In addition, steroids can “dry you up” (according to my doctor), so I have been drinking even more bottled water. I recently got my biopsy results back from the original rash behind my knees. The results said “drug eruption.” My dermatologist said it was likely the keflex antibiotic, but never took into account that I had the same rash symptoms far prior to even taking the keflex. On top of that, I’ve taken so many prescribed meds for this rash, it would be hard to pin point any one that was the cause, as I’ve never been allergic to any medications. You can imagine my stress (a contributor to hives) and being entirely uncomfortable for the past 2.5 months to the point of sleepless nights from itching. As I’ve narrowed everything down, including making many life changes in my internal/external environment (including eating no sugar, industrial sized air purifier, using Tide Free and Gentle with a double rinse, pest control, shampooing the carpets, etc), I recently had the thought that the major change from Utah to Texas was the ingestion of bottled water. Reading these comments have helped give me hope. I will refrain from bottled water starting today, drink only tap water and then see if I have positive results. (My next step was being referred to an allergist– which my PCP said was “costly” and that “you don’t want to do that.”) I’m desperate to find answers and this seems to be the only thing that makes sense. Thank you! And I will post again in a few weeks to see if this was the inciting cause (while I take my next 3 month oral steroid taper– again while breastfeeding). I do want to make note that even with the steroids, it’s been as if my body has continued to create an immune response daily against something in my body. This is the only allergen I can think of.

  11. DR. I am having a problem with frequent urination. I urinate 3oz. to 12oz. at least one time per hour around the clock. I am 72 and this started over a year ago. I can’t last much longer. “Help”

  12. I drink alot of bottled water because I thought it was safer than tap water and I have to drink lots of water and never had an issue until just recently. I know alot of plastic containers can be dangerous also because of heat etc. But my issue is after I drink the water my throat feels sore. I do have food allergies which include dairy and wheat.

  13. I noticed a different sensation in my throat perhaps a dryness in the throat, some sensation from drinking bottled water from the supermarket, I checked it’s PET 1 – market in a Triangle on the bottle – so I don’t trust drinking bottled water anymore !
    Seriously – have to drink natural water – You really need to know your details – Even with a well – is the pipe lead or what is carrying the water from the well to the pump and to the tap? Is everything setup todate? Then get proper glass storage bottles or at least BPA Free

  14. I’m age 75. In last 2 years developed allergy to some plastics. The water bottles have immediate effects on my lips. Start to tingle and get very dry . Within hours get very dry and chapped and crack. Now have noticed that handling some plastic bags cause severe irrational on hands, with immediate redness and itching. Example. Bought some bolts at hardware store in small plastic bags. It seems the cheapest plastic bags for effect on hand irration. Clear cellophane wraps are killers. Severe hand irration in minutes. Hard plastics seem to be ok.

  15. Recently started sinking smart water after my glass water bottle broke. I’ve noticed every time I drink from the smart water bottle that I get a scratchy, sore throat. I’ll def be going back to a reusable bottle.

  16. 83 years old. When I drink bottled water I immediately get hives and excruciating itch on fore arms and belt line. Took me a long time to narrow it down. What alternatives are there?

  17. This just started happening to me with plastic water bottles and straws. I am a 59 year old female and never had any problems before. I am miserable now. I decided tonight to see my dermatologist to rule out lip cancer but am fairly certain it is due to a plastic allergy. Why is this happening now? Help!

    1. Alot of allergies can come from exposure over time. I discovered I am allergic to the silicone in my contacts (worn correctly for 17yrs) and more recently plastic drinking cups/bottles etc…we are exposed daily to plastic..it’s in our food…I found metal straws for my yeti cup & choose glass as much as possible! Hope you find ways to decrease your sensitivity!

  18. Thank you…for valuable guidance
    I am facing similar kind of allergies of plastic use and throw water drinking glasses. ..almost after a year i found the exact allergic substance …whenever i drink water in use and throw plastic glass. ..after one or two days my lip become dry and the inner skin is become red and sensitive. ..throt become shore and lips become swallowe …i can not eat my regular food for almost a week …i have consulted dermatologist. …but the medicine is not effective. ..please help me and guide me for effective treatment

  19. I’m 38 yrs old and have bad reactions to plastic. I used to drink bottle water and I won’t touch the stuff now because it makes me sick, some bottle water brands give me stomach cramps and diarrhea, I was drinking one brand that didn’t seem to bother me, and then one day it started bothering me, it would give me horrible breath an after taste, and I would brush my teeth or eat something and the taste would not go away, in fact it would be so bad that it would make me puke, so I stopped drinking that water to. I bought a plastic bottle from walmart to put tap water in to keep cold in the refrigerator, and I started having a allergic reaction to that, I’d drink tap water from the bottle and it would make a nerve twitch and vibrate constantly in my left thigh, was driving me nuts, this nerve twitch started the next day after drinking from the bottle, I wasn’t sure at first if it was the bottle, so I stopped drinking from it, and 22 hours after my last drink from the bottle the twitching stopped, I re-drank some water a couple of days later from the bottle just to make sure it was the bottle and about 40 mins after drinking the water the twitch started again. So I tried cleaning it good to see if that would help, even poured bleach into it and let it set for 30 mins. then washed it out with dish soap, but it didn’t make a difference because it still causes my leg to twitch uncontrollably.

    I can’t drink out of some of the solo cups either, the ones that have the red or blue color on the outside and white on the inside, if I drank something from one of them I would get a weird metallic taste in my mouth and throw up later. My mom on thanksgiving always makes chocolate covered pretzels, one year she didn’t put them in tupperware, and instead put them in a plastic ziploc bag, it absorbed some of the plastic in the bag into the pretzels and I ate some and it made me sick, I could taste the plastic taste. But I have an allergic reaction to plastic……..

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