ZocdocAnswersShould I seek medical attention for my respiratory problems caused by mothballs?

Question

Should I seek medical attention for my respiratory problems caused by mothballs?

I am highly sensitive to certain things like cough syrup, laundry soaps, and hair dyes. Recently, I've had a reaction to mothballs. I had some things in my attic bedroom (no windows) for a week. I thought I had a cold, but realized what was going on. I took everything out of my bedroom and placed it all outside the house. I have aired my room out with vinegar, baking soda, and fans. I am still having respiratory issues and my room has been aired out for days. I have shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue, and my body aches. My cough is less frequent now, but it's turned into a choking/sneezing cough deep in my lungs. I can barely get through my day and have no time to rest. I also have insomnia. I am sensitive to Pseudoephedrine and Dextromethorphan, but may take Mucinex with just the expectorant in it.

Answer

I am sorry to hear about your respiratory symptoms. It sounds as if they are quite severe and affecting your life greatly. It is not possible to provide an accurate diagnosis with reviewing your entire medical history and performing a thorough physical exam. You may also require radiologic studies and pulmonary function tests to further assess your lungs. I strongly recommend you schedule an appointment with a pulmonologist. After an in-person evaluation, this doctor can make recommendations regarding the likely cause of your symptoms as well as treatment options. There are many different lung diseases that may be causing your symptoms. As you mentioned, it seems certain inhaled substances seem to trigger your shortness of breath. It may be possible you are suffering from asthma, which is characterized by increased spasm and inflammation of the airways. This can be a serious disorder and often requires inhaled medications as treatment. It is possible you are suffering from emphysema, which is most common on people who previously smoked. This leads to lung destruction and increased air retention. Another possibility is interstitial lung disease, which is a group of many distinct entities that can cause progressive fibrosis of the normal lung tissues. I encourage you to discuss these possibilities with a pulmonologist.

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