Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Is it possible to be allergic to cigarette smoke?"
People smoke at the bar/restaurant I work at. Whenever I'm near it, I don't just cough, but I feel like I can't breathe too. I avoid it as much as possible, but it's impossible not to breathe it in sometimes. Could I be allergic to smoke?
I am sorry that you are having this recurrence of symptoms at your job, but yes, it is possible to be allergic to cigarette smoke. You should follow up with your primary care physician to discuss your symptoms, ensure there are no other underlying etiologies and to discuss treatment and potential need for further workup/evaluation by an allergist. Smoke can be a trigger for allergic rhinitis which is usually characterized by nasal congestion, rhinorrhea (runny nose), sneezing, and itching. It sounds like your symptoms are more localized to the lungs. Second hand smoke can affect healthy lungs, making their function worse, increasing sputum production and cough, and causing chest discomfort. These last symptoms are more a direct effect of smoke on the lungs rather than a true allergic reaction. However, if your physician determines your symptoms may be more consistent with allergies, there may be allergy medications available to improve your symptoms. An allergy consultation may be useful to help delineate possible allergic symptoms and potentials for management. Regardless, tobacco smoke can be affecting your lungs and causing your symptoms and could lead to long term lung damage. You should speak to your primary care physician regarding your symptoms to ensure no other etiologies are present and to discuss possible treatments.
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