Is just one breath of smoke enough to ruin your day? As soon as the person next to you lights up, the first thing to cross your mind is the unpleasant memory of your last clash with secondhand smoke and the runny nose, sneezing, and congestion that followed. For some, the reaction to cigarette smoke closely resembles an allergic reaction, which leads them to believe that they have “smoke allergies”.
There are a lot of “smoke allergy” myths that actually make it harder to properly treat your condition. This article will help you tell if determine whether you are affected by “smoke allergies” and what you can do to better protect yourself from the illnesses associated with smoke exposure.
#1 Myth: “Allergic to Smoke”
No one is really allergic to smoke. A large number of people insist that they are allergic to smoke created by cigarettes or cigars, but the truth is that they have having an allergy-like reaction due to other health conditions. Understanding exactly why you feel like you are having allergy attack when around a smoker is the key to understanding how to prevent future symptoms.
Why do I say that there is no such thing as a smoke allergy? Because technically smoke is not an allergen – but it is an irritant. This little difference explains why most people feel no relief when they take antihistamine allergy medicine after exposure to smoke. The key to avoiding the problems caused by cigarette smoke is determining what type of sensitivity you have and how best to treat it.
Who is Prone to “Smoke Allergies”?
- Children and Infants
- Elderly Persons
- People with allergy history (anyone with allergies, asthma, eczema, etc)
- People exposed to heavy smoke for long periods of time
Sometimes people who are sensitive to tobacco smoke will also experience allergy-like symptoms when they encounter strong odors, perfumes, weather changes or temperature changes.
Symptoms of Cigarette Sensitivity
For some people, exposure to tobacco smoke can cause a list of symptoms:
- Watery, burning eyes
- Runny nose
- Post nasal drip
- Shortness of breath
These symptoms appear shortly after exposure to cigarette smoke and last for hours afterward. In addition to these symptoms, people who are in smoky environments on a daily basis are more likely to experience constant respiratory infections like sinusitis and bronchitis as well as the development of wheezing and asthma.
Tobacco Smoke Exposure weed vape pen
A lit cigarette is capable of releasing over 4,000 different chemicals into the air (80 of these are known or suspected carcinogens). Sometimes avoiding situations where people are smoking is almost impossible. Often a family member will smoke indoors, or a public place like a bar or restaurant will allow smoking. Depending on the severity of your reaction, just the smell of smoke on someone’s clothing or in a room where someone had smoked can cause irritation. So, even though avoidance of tobacco smoke is the best method to prevent “smoke allergies”, it may not be a practical solution.
Two Main Types of Smoke Sensitivity
The best way to treat your “allergy” to smoke is by first identifying what sort of sensitivity you are experiencing. There are two forms of smoke sensitivity:
- Smoke Aggravating Underlying Allergies: your body is weakened by smoke and begins reacting to all the tiny bits of pollen, dust and dander that usually would not have been a problem.
- Vasomotor Rhinitis: this is a condition that has the exact same symptoms as allergic rhinitis (or nasal allergies), but cannot be treated by antihistamine allergy medicine.
An allergen is a small particle that is made up of proteins that the body mistakes for a dangerous intruder like a virus or other germ. Smoke contains tiny tar ash particles (you can see these particles in the form of a white cloud created by burning tobacco). But tar ash particles are not the same as a true allergen because they are not protein based, but a form of carbon.