Oak wood allergy?? Need help

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Forum topic by Dan posted 07-19-2010 07:31 PM 15049 views 0 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3275 days

07-19-2010 07:31 PM

I am still a bit newer to woodworking so bare with me..

A while back I restored an antique oak table and during the sanding process I became very ill. I had flu like symptoms and was very tired and out of it for 3 or 4 days after sanding. I did not use proper protection at the time. My dad who is a long time woodworker told me that oak dust has made him sick also. Needless to say I started working with more safety by using dust collector, filter and mask…

I worked with oak again a few weeks ago and had no problem at all with it. Well this past weekend I was using it yet again and I noticed that after handling it all my fingertips turned black. Almost like I just got done reading a news paper. I used dust collector, had a fan going with air filter and wore a mask but I just feel really sick now. My head is pounding, I feel very tired an drained and its the same feeling I had back when I sanded the oak table.

I know there are wood allergies and I am guessing I have one with oak wood. I want to know if this is rare or if anyone else has had these problems? Also can I take anything to help with the symptoms? Maybe an allergy medicine or something?

I have decided that I should probably not work with oak anymore but if I do I would like to know what else I can do to prevent this reaction.

I have googled it and cant seem to find much info. Especially info on my fingertips turning black. BTW they only were black for a short time after. They are normal now.

Any feedback, advice or help would be great. I want to know I am not the only one with this problem.


-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

16 replies so far

View lew's profile


12775 posts in 4150 days

#1 posted 07-19-2010 08:10 PM

I’m not a doctor- and don’t even play one on TV- but could there have been some mold spores to which you are allergic? I don’t know if red oak gets “spalted” but it is very porous and there could have been something lodged in the pores.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View davidpettinger's profile


661 posts in 3595 days

#2 posted 07-19-2010 08:19 PM

You need to see a good allergist regarding this. I wouldn’t wait.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4564 days

#3 posted 07-19-2010 08:42 PM

I’d agree with Lew. It may not be the oak at all. In the meantime wear latex gloves and check with an allergist.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View Gary's profile


9398 posts in 3827 days

#4 posted 07-19-2010 10:33 PM

I havve an allergy to red oak. It causes me to itch like poison oak/poison ivy. No whelps,etc…just an awful itch.

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 3501 days

#5 posted 07-19-2010 10:45 PM

I can’t be around Mesquite. Bad allergy. So I look for other woods. I went to an allergist and had the 500 tests done on my back. At least now I know what to avoid.

They have treatment by injection of very small amounts of what ever you are allergic to and it gradually helps you to build up the antibodies to the allergy causing elements.

Your family doctor can guide you to the right specialists for this. Good Luck. Rand

View a1Jim's profile


117627 posts in 3971 days

#6 posted 07-19-2010 10:47 PM

You night try one of these guys.

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 4086 days

#7 posted 07-19-2010 10:48 PM

you maybe allergic to tanalin which is in the oak

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View Dan's profile


3653 posts in 3275 days

#8 posted 07-20-2010 02:16 AM

Thanks for the comments/advice. I am going to stay away from the oak wood I have for a while and maybe use it again in a few months. If the same symptoms come back then I will just stop working with it all together. I just thought it was strange because I am not allergic to anything else. I guess I found my weakness.

Thanks again!

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 3378 days

#9 posted 07-20-2010 02:44 AM

I wouldn’t doubt that its possible for you to be allergic to Oak and causing respiratory problems. What I don’t understand is the fingers turning black. This leads me to believe there is something in the wood itself causing this. Have you tried a different source to obtain your oak and storing in a different area. Have you tried wiping it down with denatured alcohol before sanding?

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Dark_Lightning's profile


3448 posts in 3503 days

#10 posted 07-20-2010 02:59 AM

Try to separate the incidents out:

Which times were the reactions? Restoration, removing finish, or fresh lumber? The black could be black mold (mildew) if the wood was wet for an appreciable time. Look up black mold for symptoms, it sounds like your problem:

-- Random Orbital Nailer

View tbreland's profile


60 posts in 3645 days

#11 posted 07-20-2010 03:56 AM

Mine did that too, but I think it was mostly a honing/stone/oil thing. Plus all my planes are pre-war. But it was a filth that even Lava couldn’t kill.

-- Come down off the cross, we can use the wood. -Tom Waits

View SnowyRiver's profile


51458 posts in 3875 days

#12 posted 07-20-2010 05:11 AM

View Knothead62's profile


2600 posts in 3355 days

#13 posted 07-20-2010 04:57 PM

I would see a specialist in immunology/allergies. An allergy survey would tell exactly what you are allergic to. Most people are allergic to something and don’t know it. This could develop into something serious. I was never allergic to bee stings until about 6 years ago. Now I carry an Epi-Pen and benadryl tablet all during warm weather. The ER doctor said my problem would get worse with each sting until a time that it could be fatal. Fun, huh?

View armylogger's profile


41 posts in 3339 days

#14 posted 07-20-2010 08:42 PM

I am in no way an expert, but in my opinion I would say that there is some type of mold present in your wood. Where have you been storing it? Where did you buy it? Was it bought from a big box store or was it cut at a local mill and has been air drying for the past year? If it has been air drying or has been stored for a while (even if it’s only a few weeks) there is a very large chance that it has become moldy. Even if you can not see it. I seem to think this especially since you say that your fingers have turned black.

-- Of all the people I have met in my life, you are one of them!

View armylogger's profile


41 posts in 3339 days

#15 posted 07-20-2010 08:44 PM

Oh yeah, especially when you were restoring the old table. Was it inside someones house or had it been sitting outside in a barn collecting dust for a long time?

-- Of all the people I have met in my life, you are one of them!

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