As you can imagine, in the same way that everyone reacts in different ways to things they inhale or ingest, everybody will react differently to the ingredients contained in e-liquids and the vapour that they produce. This means that, while most people can enjoy vaping regularly without experiencing any health problems, a few people find that they experience unwanted irritating or unpleasant symptoms once they have made the switch to e-cigs from regular tobacco cigarettes. In the majority of these cases, the main side effect is only a minor irritation in the throat, however some people do experience a much worse reaction. Here, we look at some of the side effects you may have if you have an allergy to your e-liquid and what you can do about it.
While we are aware that e-cigarettes do not contain the harmful ingredients like carcinogens and tar that are found in regular cigarettes and also contain no actual tobacco, some people are unsure of the ingredients contained in e-liquids. E-liquids are a liquid solution of nicotine made up of 4 primary ingredients: water, flavouring, nicotine and a base of vegetable glycerine or propylene glycol (or a mix of the two).
- PG or propylene glycol is a carrier or base for flavours and nicotine. This is a common food additive which is found in lots of things we consume regularly as well as in medicines.
- VG or vegetable glycerin is also a carrier or base for flavours and nicotine. This is a plant based substance which is often made from palm oil or coconut and is frequently found in foodstuffs as an additive.
- Flavouring – food flavourings are added to e-liquids to create a particular taste.
- Nicotine – most e-liquid brands offer a variable content of nicotine in their products, with some containing 0 mg and others containing as much as 24 mg.
Possible Vaping Side Effects
Although the majority of people experience no side effects when vaping e-cigarettes, apart from those issues linked with the ongoing use of nicotine, there are some other people who do experience symptoms related to their vaping, although these are usually temporary in nature. Some of the most common include:
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin
- Rash or burning feeling on the face
- Dry or puffy eyes
- Sensitivity to caffeine
- Minor issues with nosebleeds
The effect of having a dry mouth is one of the most common symptoms reported due to the nature of e-liquid itself. One of the primary ingredients in the majority of e-liquids is PG or propylene glycol. This is a substance which is also commonly used in a range of personal care and pharmaceutical products, and as it is hygroscopic, it attracts and holds water molecules that are in the surrounding environment i.e. the mouth. It is possible to rectify this side effect by simply drinking sips of water more frequently. If you experience dry skin when vaping, you can usually address the problem by applying a hypo-allergenic moisturiser until the body adjusts.
The drying effect of e-liquids may also be the cause of nosebleeds in a small number of vapers, and while this is a problem which usually resolves itself over time, it may help to avoid exhaling the vapour through the nose in the first few weeks of vaping. Some people experience side effects because they are vaping too much, and their problems disappear if they cut down their e-cigarette usage.
In other cases, side effects are not caused by the e-cigarette itself, but by the way the body now reacts to some other substance. For example, some people begin to develop a sensitivity to caffeine which may result in hot flashes or increased anxiety. This can be rectified by reducing caffeine intake by drinking weaker coffee or fewer cups over the course of a day.
Some people experience reactions due to an allergy to some of the e-liquid ingredients such as the VG, PG, nicotine or flavourings. It is often possible to find relief by adjusting the levels of the components in the e-liquid. Most people who have experienced side effects from vaping find that if they continue to vape, over time the issues disappear without the need to take action. A few others discover that their problems get worse, however it is very rare to have to stop vaping because of the side effects experienced.
PG Allergy – Can I Avoid It?
If you have had an adverse or allergic reaction while vaping, it makes sense to try switching e-liquids first. This will help you to discover whether it is propylene glycol that you are sensitive to, or whether it is a different ingredient in the e-juice. You could either swap to an e-liquid with a lower ratio of PG or try eliminating PG altogether. The best way to determine whether propylene glycol is causing your symptoms is to try an e-liquid that is made up of 100% vegetable glycerin, however this can prove tricky as there are fewer e-liquids with a VG base than those with a PG base. Also, some 100% VG e-liquids still have a very small amount of PG which could cause symptoms to occur. Therefore, the best option if you are experiencing an allergic reaction is to always purchase your e-liquids from a well known and reliable vendor.
If you have tried switching e-liquids but still experience a bad reaction, it is possible that you are vaping an e-juice that has too high a nicotine content, and therefore be overdosing. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor as overdosing on nicotine can be very serious.
- Fast heartbeat
Sometimes, the symptoms you are experiencing may be from a particular flavouring. If you know that you have an allergy to a particular type of food, avoid e-liquids that contain that substance.