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Please Help: Allergic reaction to Walnut

Discussion in 'Woodturning Discussion Forum' started by Northboundtrain, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. Northboundtrain

    Northboundtrain

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    I've been working with walnut off and on for the past several months. This morning I did some sanding, wearing a dust mask, but not protecting my skin and eyes (which has pretty much always been my standard proceedure). I went back into the house for some breakfast and realized that I had a broken out in a full body rash.

    My research so far suggests that walnut can produce allergic reactions, but that it is not nearly so potent as other (exotic) types of wood.

    Does anyone have experience with a reaction to walnut? Will I ever be able to work with it again? Am I now more suseptible to other species of wood?

    I have a nice walnut log out in the yard I was planning to make some christmas gift bowls out of, but now I'm scared to even go into the shop.

    Any help greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

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    Northbound,

    It appears that your Walnut Days are over. Sensitivity to the Juglans protein which causes the reaction builds over time. Your next reaction could, quite literally, put you into anaphylactic shock with very serious results. A very prominent turner I know cannot contact walnut, especially green wood. After turning a bunch of the stuff, his reacton to walnut, including the nuts in food, is so high that exposure will actually threaten his life.

    You appear to be one of the unlucky ones who develop the sensitivity. Since you've identified the source of your reaction, you'd also do well to shy away from the nuts as well. To be sure, get yourself tested by an allergist.

    I have a bunch of walnut, actually more than I can turn, so I'm getting some of it sawn for lumber. I understand that the sensitivity is reduced when the wood is fully dried.

    Good Luck

    Mark
     
  3. woodwish

    woodwish

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    I had some real severe reactions this past summer to cocabola and rosewood. I also used some maple and walnut at the same time. I gave up on cocabola and rosewood but have seemed to had a problem with the others. From my research at the time, walnut seems to be a real problem when green but the dried wood does not bother most people. Maple tends to be more of an iratant to the respirtory system. The walnut you were turning, was it green or kiln-dried?

    My biggest problem was finding a doctor that even believed that wood would cause those kinds of reactions to my skin. They all blamed soap, foods, etc. but I know it was the cocabola and rosewood from research on the 'net. The bad news is that it will get worse each time you contact it, no matter how much you try to prevent contact with gloves and masks. I have learned to always use good dust collection, and as much other protection as is practical. But the only real solution is avoid contact at all with the offending woods. BTW, none of the allergists in this town had any tests for sensitivity to various woods and had not even heard of any.
     
  4. Redfish

    Redfish

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    Wood allergies seem to be hit or miss-- you either have them or you don't (in your case you obviously do). I wasn't aware of the buildup of toxicity of walnut, so I will be cautiuos about it. The owner of our cabinet shop got a bizzare rash on his neck a while back, this may be the case as we use walnut on occasion.

    I have a good friend that cannot turn cocobolo without wearing gloves and long-sleeved shirts. Gets a terrible rash. So far I've used both woods with no adverse reactions.
     
  5. Dave Beringer

    Dave Beringer

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    Location (City & State):
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    Walnut

    Walnut allergies are very common. Both to humans and to many other animals. I had a friend who want to raise horses and had to cut down every walnut tree on his property. Appearantly walnut leaves and trees are a big health hazard to horses and other live stock. I have in the past gotten rid of my turning shaving and planar shaving to people with large live stock for bedding. They always ask if walnut is in the mix and if it is they cannot use it.
     
  6. Brodie Brickey

    Brodie Brickey

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    Sorry to hear you're alergic. When turning other woods watch out for reactions that you might have to fruit and nut woods. For some reason, they seem to move together.

    Brodie
     
  7. Malcolm Tibbetts

    Malcolm Tibbetts

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    As a segmented turner, I work with lots of wood species - nothing affects me as much as walnut. I use it very sparingly.
     
  8. Jake Debski

    Jake Debski

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    You may........

    want to get someone to clean your shop for you. The sanding dust can still cause a reaction. A friend got a really bad reaction to rosewood. He got himself well and went back into the shop. The leftover dust knocked him down again. It was only after his friends cleaned the shop that he was able to return. Walnut may not be as serious as rosewood but why chance it.
     
  9. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Well, no. Walnut allergies are not very common. Tree nut allergies rank behind the five most common types of food allergies, which in total affect perhaps 2% of the adults and 8% of children in the US. Though hives and dermatitis are the most common symptoms of ingestion allergy, it's far more likely, especially as the wood does not contain the nut proteins, that the people are suffering from contact dermatitis. There's a mess of phenols and other nasty soluble (sweat) organic chemicals available to burn and irritate the skin in a lot of dark woods.

    There is a danger to horses from standing in the walnut shavings or husks. Foundering, which destroys the hooves. Don't give the shavings to people with horses. Don't know how cattle react, but I wouldn't use them for bedding them, either. Cuticle is cuticle. Another of our favorite trees, the cherry, also poses a real danger to cattle who nibble the leaves and bark, though it used to be a standard "spring tonic" ingredient!
     
  10. Mike Schwing

    Mike Schwing

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    As others have stated - your walnut days are over (or at least probably should be over) I have reactions to rosewoods, so I simply don't work with them. Not worth the risk with so many other species available. Walnut dust makes me a bit stuffy, but so far no further issues.

    In addition to the other suggestions - if you've used a dust collector to vac up any walnut shavings/dust, that thing could give you trouble for years whenever you start it up. You might consider discarding the bags, even the top one. (and if they're from AFF I'll take them)
     
  11. Northboundtrain

    Northboundtrain

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    I went to the doc yesterday. He diagnosed it as a delayed reaction to penicillin (I had been on a ten day regiment of penicillin, but had finished it six days before the onset of the reaction). He said without any reservations at all he thinks I could go back to working with walnut.

    I've been on a heavy dose of benedryl for 24 hours now, but the rash is only getting worse. Maybe it just takes a while to run its course, but if the allergy is to walnut dust, maybe there is a little residual dust in my house. Plus, the above comment about a doctor not being willing to suspect wood dust allergies still leaves me wondering. Anyway, I know this forum is not the place to get a medical diagnosis, but if there are any more people out there with walnut sensitivity who can share their experiences (type of reaction, etc.), I would greatly appreciate it.

    Thanks for the help so far.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2005
  12. Mike Schwing

    Mike Schwing

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    I am allergic to penecillin, but my rash may not look just like your rash, if you are allergic to penecillin.

    This should be easy to determine which it is. A simple controlled test will do. Of course, you could die from exposure to either if the reaction is severe enough, depending on which (both) you are allergic to.

    After it clears up, dose yourself again with penecillin and avoid walnut. Nothing happens? Great! Now turn some walnut, observe.

    I'm highly doubtful of the delayed allergic penecillin reaction, but I'm not a doctor.
     
  13. MichaelMouse

    MichaelMouse

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    Do not do this. Anaphylaxis is no joke. I wouldn't do it if I had an IV established and my partner had a hypo of epinephrine ready. Which, by the way is the only way I'd turn walnut again - with an epi-pen available.

    I am about ninety percent sure that your doctor is full of it, and you are experiencing contact dermatitis from the extractives or something else. Especially since the benadryl hasn't led to an improvement, but with the varieties of wood available other than walnut, why bother to try? He didn't give you a topical steroid to go with the benadryl?
     
  14. Mark Mandell

    Mark Mandell

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    North,

    Unless you want to risk your train going South in a hurry, I'd again suggest that you get a second medical opinion before going further. I surely hope you don't embark on any kind of self-test routine, especially when an allergist can simply and SAFELY determine the question with a few CHEAP tests.

    Mark
     
  15. Jeff Jilg

    Jeff Jilg

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    I agree with Mark. To my knowledge none of us are medical doctors, and this may not be the best place to get medical advice. You should probably get a second opinion from another doctor. Your health is not worth experimenting with.

    It is well known that walnut can cause allergic reactions. You might want to get an allergist to give you a test specifically for that. You could even provide the walnut dust if needed.
     

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