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Signs & Symptoms of an Allergy to Tobacco

By Susan Berg ; Updated July 27, 2017

A tobacco allergy means an unfavorable reaction by your body to it. Most of the symptoms from a tobacco allergy come from the smoke when the tobacco is burning. People with other allergies and health conditions might be more sensitive to tobacco smoke. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tobacco smoke is a major source of indoor air contaminants.

Eye Problems

Tobacco smoke is an eye irritant. It can cause burning in your eyes. Itchy and watery eyes are other common problems that can happen if you are allergic to tobacco smoke. Your eyes may appear red or blood shot. If you have dry eyes, these symptoms can be even worse. Over-the-counter eye drops may help your eyes feel and look better.

Respiratory System Concerns

A cough is a reflex of the body that helps to keep the airways clear of irritating substances. Since burning tobacco is full of toxic substances that can irritate your throat and lungs, coughing is a natural reaction to tobacco smoke exposure. Prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke can lead to sneezing, nasal congestion or a runny nose. Your nose and throat may become inflamed if you have an allergy to tobacco smoke. OTC medications, like nasal decongestants or throat lozenges, may help lessen the above symptoms. Children with tobacco allergies may develop asthma, which is a chronic condition caused by the inflammation of the lungs and bronchial tubes. Exposure to tobacco smoke may also cause wheezing or difficulty breathing, especially if you have asthma. A tobacco allergy makes you more susceptible to developing repeated respiratory infections that include pneumonia and bronchitis. You may need treatment with inhaled steroids or antibiotics to control asthma-related symptoms or respiratory infections.

Ear Issues

Children with tobacco allergies may acquire ear-related symptoms if they are exposed to this allergen. This happens because the structure between the middle ear and the throat, called the eustachian tube, is small in young children. The eustachian tubes keep pressure from building up by letting air move in and out of the middle ear. Because the eustachian tubes are very small, they are less able to keep allergens and germs out. If you have allergies, the eustachian tubes can get blocked up and lets germs get in the middle ear. Then the number of germs can grow inside your middle ear and cause an infection. These ear infections can be painful. Symptoms of an ear infection may include ear pressure, pain, fever and irritability. Antibiotics and decongestants may be needed to treat ear infections associated with a tobacco allergy.

Headaches

Tobacco smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes can contribute to headaches. Nicotine is one of the components of tobacco. It stimulates the blood vessels in the brain to narrow. This can cause a headache. Tobacco smoke also stimulates the nerves in the back of the throat, which also contributes to headache pain. Allergy to tobacco smoke, as well as being sensitive to the odor of burning tobacco, can also cause migraine headaches in some people. Avoiding situations or places where tobacco smoke is present is the best way to avoid these headaches.

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