I was diagnosed about three years ago. I'm so surprised there isn't more discussion on WebMD and have previously had a really hard time finding any community support. Yes, a formaldehyde allergy is rare, but that doesn't mean there aren't A LOT of people dealing with it so there ARE resources. A lengthy discussion of strategies can be found here .
Basically, someone with this allergy can be exposed to a very small amount but may not react for a few days, by which time it can be very hard to know what it was that triggered the itchy, dry, cracking skin. Even if you don't have any more exposure, that reaction can last for weeks. But chances are good you WILL have more exposure because, yes, formaldehyde is everywhere. Paper. Building materials. Beauty and cleaning products. Clothing.
The good news is that people are becoming more aware, and awareness - I so, so hope - might bring some change. I'm personally starting to get a little up-in-armsy about it.
I'm not going to lie - this is a huge pain in the ass. I still have reactions on my hands, but it used to cover my whole body.
The most important thing you can do is find a dermatologist who does patch testing so you have a diagnosis and someone who can treat and advise you on a long-term basis. Talk to them about CARD (contact allergen replacement database) or other databases that will specifically list products safe for you to use based on your test results. They will help you understand how the allergy works and how you can avoid contact - because, unfortunately, that is the strategy.
Here are some things that should help in the mean time: 1. Switch to Dove White Beauty Bars for your hands and body. Take a bar with you in your purse. 2. Keep vinyl gloves on hand for any cleaning. Bring some to work if you think that will help. 3. Switch to Aussie "Moist" shampoo and conditioner. 4. Stop using hand sanitizers. Use Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser without water instead. 5. Moisturize every time you wash your hands and at night with Vanicream hand cream or lotion. 6. Lay an acrylic blanket (which is less likely to have been treated with formaldehyde than one with natural fibers) over your couch, chairs, carpet, and even car seat - especially if your skin would otherwise be touching those materials. 7. Invest in some long underwear from WinterSilks , which will provide a barrier between your skin and clothes that may have been treated with formaldehyde.
The personal products are on my CARD list, which excludes formaldehyde, cross-reactors, and several other things. You should be able to get all of them at Target.
I'll be watching for more discussion and am so thankful to see more of a support community forming.