Tag Archive for smoke

I knew those e-cigarettes were bad news

Researchers from RTI International have discovered e-cigarettes aren’t as safe as they claim to be.  Users may not be inhaling tobacco smoke along with all those nasty additives, but the inhaled “chemicals caused acute toxicity or lung damage observed with traditional tobacco smoke” during testing.

They found that up to 40% of particles from an e-cigarette can be absorbed into the deepest area of a youth’s lungs, thus irritating airways or worsening pre-existing respiratory conditions, according to the release.

While these initial findings aren’t looking good for those using this tobacco alternative, I have to wonder if there are second-hand implications from the particles as well.

Orlando, Florida’s Caribe Royale

In both 2013 and 2014 I stayed at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, Florida while attending work-related conferences and have resolved to never stay there again.  To paraphrase a friend who works at a different hotel in the area,

Caribe Royale is a smoker’s paradise

The great state of Florida apparently doesn’t have one of those handy laws requiring people to smoke x feet away from building entrances.  The Caribe Royale has a large main building containing the front desk, restaurants and other facilities with residential towers behind that surround a large, common pool area.  Further behind are more towers containing suites and their conference facilities.

  • Next to every entrance/exit are trash cans with cigarette receptacles
  • These same trash cans exist inside as well as outside
  • Hotel guests seem to think they can smoke inside buildings and place their tobacco products in the same receptacles
  • Allowing people to smoke next to entrances means the smoke is sucked inside to lobbies every time a door opens
  • This also results in the elevators smelling like smoke
  • My floor in the hotel smelled like smoke

I’m ok with designated smoking areas, but the Caribe Royale effectively allows people to smoke everywhere.  There is no NO SMOKING area for me to safely retreat.  Of course this doesn’t seem so bad unless you’re someone like me whose life can depend on avoiding this airway irritant.  One night the smoke was so bad it ended up taking me out for the evening and I missed half a day of my conference.  This year I went to Florida feeling great and ended up wheezing with rales for five days.  if I wasn’t already prednisone-dependent with the ability to adjust my own dosage as needed, I probably would have needed to seek emergency care.  I complained last year and again this year.  They are “sorry,” but sorry doesn’t help me breathe.  I won’t ever be staying at the Caribe Royale again, nor attending this conference unless they change venues.

Smoke

From time to time I’ve talked about tobacco smoke and smoke in general.  At times I declare that I hate smokers, when really I’m just having an extreme reaction against the smoke they’re generating.  I truly try to avoid smoking-designated areas and stay in my no-smoking designated places, but when the smoke comes into my safe-zone it’s hard to stay Dude-like.  For example…

This morning on my way into the building at work I started to smell cigarette smoke as I approached one of the side-doors.  I work on a no-smoking campus so people aren’t supposed to be smoking anywhere on the property.  If you pay attention you’ll notice pathetic huddles of people puffing literally feet away from the property line in certain places.  This winter they’ve been reminding me of that I.T. Crowd episode where Jen is still smoking.

Anyway, I really have no option but to breathe in this lung irritant for about 40 feet and then as I get close to the door I see someone left a lit cigarette burning on the stairs.  Because of the placement of the door, overhang and direction of the wind, this cigarette has continued to burn and there’s a giant pocket of smoke trapped at the entrance along with smoke in the entryway being sucked in every time the door opens.

For most this is no big deal.  I have friends and family who would not even noticed the smell.  For the past 4 hours this morning:

  • I can’t breathe in as deeply as before
  • There’s a sharp pain on the left side of my chest below my collar bone every time I breathe in, which almost always means I’m wheezy
  • I’m coughing
  • My voice is affected
  • My sinuses hurt
  • I feel like crap

I got into my office took some meds, have been taking it easy and have taken more meds in the meantime.  I’m in no way bad enough to warrant urgent medical care by any means, but this is what people like me go through just from smelling cigarette smoke for about 15 seconds in their day from a single, abandoned cigarette on the ground where it’s not supposed to be.

Last week I read a post on Asth.ma where Dr. Wu, the blog’s author, was surprised to learn people smoke outside the entrance to the hospital where she works.  This is something I feel like I’ve been dealing with my entire life.  As a kid my dad used to smoke around me, people smoked in planes, people smoked in most businesses, and there were always crowds of people smoking outside of a hospital.  I think I can even remember people smoking inside of hospitals.  The worst situations are when I’m heading to a doctor’s office or going to the hospital for emergency care and I have to encounter this, at times, life-threatening smell before getting inside the building.  I take the risk of sounding whiny here, but it’s really not fair.

The crazy part is other than last night when I saw someone smoking close to this entrance, perhaps the same person who left their cancer-stick this morning, I haven’t even encountered smoke for weeks.  I feel very fortunate to work at a place where smoking is banned.  No one smokes in my household, for obvious reasons, and I can fairly easily avoid smoke when I want to in my town and state.  The hard part is when I’m away from home and traveling, staying at hotels, and flying on planes.  Even though people can’t smoke on planes or in most airports anymore, 3rd-hand smoke from people who were around smokers or were previously smoking is just as detrimental.  I’ve had to ask for a different seat on a plane or move on a bus before due to this.  I understand people have the right to smoke, I just wish there was a way to keep the smoke away.

The Dangers of Outside

I once had an Eastern European pulmonologist who spoke with an awesome accent and reminded me of Olek Krupa in The Italian Job (2003).  He was a very nice and caring doctor, but I had this feeling I should never cross him.  Back in 2007 I was in his office for the who-knows-time after another exacerbation.  This time I had come home to the smell of smoke outside, the local school still burns their trash, had an asthma attack and barely made it into the house.

Have you ever thought about getting one of those bubbles to live in?  You know, like that Bubble Boy movie?

Of course he was joking, but my doctor had a point.  Between my seasonal allergies and hyper-reactive airways, it sometimes wasn’t and still isn’t worth going outside certain days.  While living in a “bubble” or working in a “clean room” environment would probably be key for me and many others, it isn’t plausible, feasible or realistic.  The important things to focus on are identifying what to avoid and when to stay inside.

Allergies come in both the indoor and outdoor varieties.  Sometimes it’s easy to know what will cause you an allergic reaction, but it never hurts to see an allergist and be tested if this is a significant problem for you.  I’m allergic to most local trees, grasses, ragweed, dust, dust mites, most molds/fungi and cats.  Realistically I can encounter any of these inside or outside depending on the situation.  I’ve had to identify homes of friends and family I cannot visit, stores and buildings I cannot enter – there’s even a movie theater in town I don’t frequent because there’s either dust, water damage or mold in there.  We keep our doors and windows shut during most of the year, run our air conditioning and have a True HEPA filter that helps to keep the air clean.  Be sure to keep your furnace filter changed and stay on top of all your duct filters as well.  Cleaning can be a chicken-and-egg situation if dust is an issue.  Obviously stirring up dust by cleaning will aggravate your condition, but waiting too long to do it, or avoiding it completely, will just add to the amount of dust in your home making you sick.

Irritants are different than allergies, but can still make you feel just as bad when encountering them  Examples can include:

  • Smoke – wood, trash, tobacco, etc.  These all contain various particulates, chemicals and other “stuff” that can irritate and inflame your upper/lower respiratory system.
  • Smog and air pollution – while this problem is often confined to heavily populated areas, it can travel or become worse when combined with weather.
  • Strong odors – perfumes and colognes, cleaning chemicals/supplies, cooking smells, sewage, body odor, insect sprays, industrial glue, paint, etc
  • Particulates – tiny particles in the air such as chemicals sprayed on crops, dusts and powders, soot, etc.  These tiny particles of matter can be either solid or liquid and exist in the atmosphere.
  • Weather – I’m including weather separately below, but wanted to point out thunderstorms can often bring unwanted guests in the form of allergens, pollutants, particulates and anything else that was stirred up on its path from Point A to you.

Weather changes and patterns show up in the form of cold winter air, hot summer air, humidity, pressure changes, etc.  I have friends whose worst time is Winter with the cold air, but I can have just as much trouble with the heat and humidity in the summer.  The important thing to know what affects you and how prepare.

Cold and flu season can be hard to avoid in public places and work when simple cold and viruses seem like no big deal to people.  A pesky cold for an average Joe is like bronchitis for us, and bronchitis for them can be like pneumonia for us.  I’ve never found a great way to breach this with co-workers, but it’s about the same as just being out in public.  Try not to constantly touch your face, wash your hands, and avoid the coughing/sneezing zones if possible.

agoraphobia-2012

So last night I was feeling “ok” and almost forgetting I had been in the hospital just two days prior.  The idea was brought up to go get some ice cream at a local place in town and that seemed like a great idea.  It was neither hot nor humid outside, pollen and mold counts weren’t too bad, and I had been staying on top of my breathing treatments.  So we drove the 5 miles, got our ice cream and took some seats on the picnic tables farthest from the ice cream hut.  This is mainly to avoid anyone who may start smoking in line or in their cars immediately next to the building with their windows open.

Not too long later I caught a couple whiffs of smoke but it was pretty infrequent.  I’m guessing we were 40 yards away or so from the building, but there was a light breeze bringing anything from that direction our way.  Liz wanted to know if I should leave, but it wasn’t constant and I decided to stay.  Right about the time we were ready to leave, there was more smoke and Liz decided we needed to get out of there.  It’s a good thing she’s around to notice this kind of stuff because by the time I got into the car I was already losing my voice and hurting to breathe.  Two albuterol nebs later I was back up to about 430 on the PF and hovering at 92% O2 saturation.  I spent the next 7 hours doing treatments before I could finally fall asleep and have been completely exhausted all day.  This is what it’s like to be a severe asthmatic.  All I wanted was some ice cream and the people smoking weren’t even smoking in a non-smoking area or anywhere near me.  It’s just what we have to deal with on a regular basis.