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Merry, Volunteer Mentor (@merpreb)

Staying (Lung) Safe this Holiday Season

Lung Cancer | Last Active: Mar 31 9:23pm | Replies (27)

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@colleenyoung Oh my gosh. My lungs are so reactive to fragrances. Man made fragrances travel in the air because of chemicals like phalates that cause their dispersal and it may partly be these chemicals that are causing serious asthma reactions. It takes only minutes of exposure to cologne when my airway starts to swell and my lungs start kicking out a lot phlegm. I get very tired and get a severe headache because my oxygen levels are dropping. I can't think clearly and I feel like I'm drowning. I start struggling to breathe and begin to try to get more air by accessory breathing which elevates the first ribs. That causes other problems because I used my neck muscles to pull the ribs upward and it aggravates my thoracic outlet syndrome condition and it gets stuck there causing a spasm with chest and neck pain. When my asthma is bad enough, I can't stay awake long enough to use an inhaler to try to save myself. Even if the exposure was only for a few minutes, and I have removed myself from the area, in about an hour, I am going to have a buildup of phlegm in my lungs and will still go through the symptoms of excessive fatigue and a bad headache. It may take me several hours to clear the phlegm buildup and recover after an event like this before I can breathe normally again and the headache subsides.

At home, I do not use cleaning products or soaps with heavy fragrances. Even exposure to other people wearing clothing that was washed in a heavy fragrance laundry detergent causes breathing problems for me if I can't get away from it. The natural fragrances used in dish soap does not bother me.

Natural fragrances are not as bad for me. I do know that I am allergic to pine terpenes that create the pine smell. I can walk past holiday wreaths without having an adverse event if I don't linger. Natural boughs will also harbor other allergens like mold spores or dust so I resist the urge to smell them because those would also trigger my allergic asthma. If I was inside a home with a real Christmas tree, I would have a headache and some breathing issues. Then there are scented candles and stuff squirting scents into the air. I cannot stay in an environment like that because I will be headed for an asthma attack.

I avoid stores with fragrance counters. The laundry detergent aisles are a big problem. I hold my breath as I walk past them. Hardware stores aisles with fertilizer and weed & insect killers also trigger my asthma. I try to get in and out of stores like that as fast as possible.

I wish people could understand what it is like to experience a serious problem caused by fragrances on other people and in public spaces. They have a misconception about the consequences of their habits and think it is harmless. In reality it is toxic, and some individuals are so sensitive to it that is causes a serious reaction. I also find that exposure to fragrances in public causes the scent to be absorbed into my clothing, and I have to change clothes to get rid of it so I can stop reacting to it. So I carry this problem around with me until I can get home to change.

We also had these other discussions regarding fragrances and lung health.

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Replies to "@colleenyoung Oh my gosh. My lungs are so reactive to fragrances. Man made fragrances travel in..."

One thing I have done at our home is to stop spraying things into the air, thus avoiding a huge amount of irritating and pollution. Squeeze bottles work just fine, a squirt on a cleaning cloth or a counter is all I need.
My go-to favorites are Alcohol bottles as my old, arthritic hands don’t work the best. A small thing to improve air quality.

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