Chemical substances contained in tobacco are allergens and may cause “cigarette allergies.”
The large number of toxic irritants contained in each puff of cigarette smoke can induce or aggravate different allergies. However, if appropriate measures are taken, it may be possible to reduce or alleviate certain symptoms. This time, we will introduce about some of the allergies associated with smoking and tobacco.
Relationship between tobacco and atopic eczema
When harmful substances contained in tobacco and cigarette smoke are taken into the blood, the body will try to remove them. This process can trigger an immune response, which may in turn cause symptoms of an allergy. Atopy – a kind of hypersensitivity to certain allergens – is also considered as one of them.
There are some 4000 harmful substances found in cigarette smoke, such as nicotine, which contracts blood vessels, and active oxygen, which accelerates the aging process by oxidizing cells in the body. Blood vessel constriction and skin aging due to smoking can adversely affect atopy.
In addition to being directly impacted as a smoker, smoke that you exhale and smoke that floats from the end of your lit cigarette – i.e. secondhand or sidestream smoke – also touches and coats both the smoker’s skin and that of people nearby. Secondhand smoke is known to be more harmful than mainstream smoke, and can cause stains, wrinkles and dullness. As the skin’s environment worsens, the potential for atopy to be aggravated grows.
Symptoms of tobacco allergies
“Cigarette allergy” is a disease in which allergic symptoms, such as atopy, are triggered by an immune reaction against harmful substances in tobacco or smoke. Strictly speaking, there is no singular, medically defined “tobacco allergy,” rather the condition is referred to as a “hypersensitivity to certain chemicals.” As a result it is typically distinguished separately as a disease as opposed to an allergy per se, however “tobacco allergy” and “smoking allergy” are interchangeable phrases more commonly used and much easier to understand.
The fear of tobacco allergy may be the point that it may occur not only for smokers but also for non-smokers as well. Since sidestream smoke contains numerous toxic chemicals, being a secondhand smoker (i.e. living with or being around a smoker) over a period of time may cause tobacco allergy symptoms. These symptoms may be as innocent as a runny nose, cough or sneezing, but in heavy cases there can be cases of respiratory-related issues, such as asthma, severe coughing and dyspnea, so care must be taken. In fact, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) is one of the most common indoor pollutants, and a Korean study in 2012 not only found that children are more vulnerable to ETS exposure than adults are, but that childhood exposure to tobacco smoke is a major risk factor for atopic dermatitis.
Finally, research has only recently begun on so-called “thirdhand smoke,” which is the residue that’s deposited on indoor surfaces (like chairs, tables, floors, walls, TVs and clothes) over the years. People – especially children – can come into contact with this toxic film on a daily basis, but its effect on allergies and longer-term impact on the body is not yet understood.
Measures against tobacco allergy
While generally it’s a good idea to consider how to stop smoking before symptoms of tobacco allergy start presenting themselves, when you or family members do start experiencing symptoms medical consultation is recommended. If the smoker directly exhibits smoking allergy symptoms, it may be possible to take countermeasures depending on the symptoms, however if tobacco allergy develops due to second-hand smoke, improvement may not be as straightforward.
Seeking everyday ways to prevent onset of symptoms is an important action for non-smokers to take when they share a smoking environment. One of the easiest ways is to request that the smoker maintain a physical distance outside the home when smoking, and immediately wash their hands, face and other smoke-contaminated portions upon returning home.
Meanwhile, for non-smokers, an easy and effective way is to wear a surgical mask around home – especially if the smoker smokes indoors. This helps to filter inhaled air and can dramatically cut down on many of the toxic substances in cigarettes from entering the body, while protecting the mucosa of the nose and throat. Also, since chemical substances in your body accumulate in fat, it is a good idea to move your body more frequently from time to time to activate metabolism, promote fat burning and spur toxin emissions. A simple way to get started is by taking a brisk walk and continuing for over 20 minutes.
Also, aim for a balanced diet with many vegetables and fruits. Vitamins and minerals are indispensable to maintain the body’s immune function. Also, as sleep deprivation causes fatigue and stress to accumulate, it leads to a constitution prone allergy. Getting more than 6 hours of sleep per day is a good idea as a result.
Because smoking can exacerbate atopy and other allergies, it is better to look for ways to quit smoking – and then act not only for your health, but for the long-term health of others around you. When tobacco allergy symptoms develop, it is better to stop sucking on smoke – once symptoms worsen, they may persist for a very long time.