Am I Allergic to Electronic Cigarettes?

Following a series of comments by readers who suspect they might be allergic to the propylene glycol in e-liquid, I decided to write a short post on allergies caused by e-cigarette use and their symptoms.

Before we get started on allergies caused by PG and other e-liquid ingredients, it’s important to be sure the symptoms you are experiencing are indeed related to vaping. If you’ve recently given up smoking and switched to electronic cigarettes, you may be dealing with a series of smoking cessation side-effects. These can include mouth ulcers, headaches, nausea, coughing, a skin eruption known as “quit zits”, sputum and phlegm, among others. The good news is these symptoms go away after a few weeks to a month, but the bad news is vaping-related side-effects are very much the same, so it’s hard to identify what is causing them. The best thing you can do is stop using e-cigarettes for a couple of days and see if your general condition improves. If it does, you should investigate what kind of e-liquid you’ve been using and try to identify the problem, but if it doesn’t, it’s safe to assume the problems are linked to tobacco cessation.

Another thing you have to understand is that you don’t have to be a new e-cigarette user to experience vaping-related health issues. Humans can become allergic to various things at any point during their lives, so even if you’ve been happily puffing on your e-cig for months, even years, you can start to experience all kinds of bizarre symptoms. The most common culprit seems to be propylene glycol (PG), the organic compound used as a base for the majority of e-liquids available on the market today. It holds the nicotine and flavor in suspension so your e-cigarette can produce those thick plumes of smoke-like vapor, but it’s also a known irritant and can cause a number of allergic reactions. In mild cases, they range from a sore throat to sinus problems, headaches, and even feelings of nausea, while in extreme cases PG can cause numbness of the face and tongue and itchy hives on the upper body. The best way to make sure propylene glycol is responsible for any of these symptoms, and at the same time solve the problem, is to switch to a 100% vegetable glycerin e-liquid, or at least one with a lower PG content.

If there’s no improvement several days after lowering and ultimately eliminating PG, you may be experiencing a nicotine overdose or an allergy caused by artificial flavorings and other added chemicals. Nicotine overdose is a very serious medical condition characterized by headache, nausea, dizziness, accelerated heartbeat and sweating. If you’ve been using high-nicotine juices intensively, switch to 0% e-liquid immediately, and if your general health keeps deteriorating it’s imperative you seek medical help as soon as possible. What most vapers don’t know is that the wide majority of flavors come in a base of propylene glycol, so even though it’s advertised as 100% vegetable glycerin, it can still contain various amounts of PG and cause allergic reactions. I would advise contacting reputed e-liquid vendors (Halo, Totally Wicked E-liquid, Alien Vision, Goodejuice, etc.) and ask if they make true 100% VG-based juices. Artificial colorings, artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners and other additives are approved for human consumption, but they have not yet been tested for safety when inhaled, so they could cause irritation or allergic symptoms when vaped.

The important thing is not giving up on electronic cigarettes and going back to analogs. Switch from propylene glycol to vegetable glycerin, lower the nicotine content, change e-liquid brand, do whatever it takes and you’re bound to find what works for you at some point, but going back to smoking tobacco is the worst thing you can do.

47 Comments/Reviews

  • Judy says:

    I am now experiencing a lot of phelm in my throat, after Using an e cig for 2years, the same brand and the same flavor. Has anyone else experienced this reaction?

    • Carmen says:

      I started vapo on 12/30/13 started noticing the hives about 2. Weeks into smoking the I taste. From hives I have severe swelling in the face my eyes lips and cheeks. I went to the doctor I am on prednisone Benadryl I have an epi pen now and Zantac. This is very frustrating the doctors don’t want to believe it’s the vapo however I was feeling just fine before i started. I’m going to an allergist specialist now and all they want to do is blood work I have up the vapo months ago and still going thru health issues

      • djdvape says:

        If you quit two months ago and stil are going through health issues, the vaping is NOT the problem. Some experience gum bleeeding, a direct result of years o fsmoking cigarettes. when quitting cigarettes and going over to vaping, the natural bad health of the gums, hidden by shrunken capillaries from smoking cigs, suddenly becomes pronounced and brushing teeth or nothing at all causes the gums to bleed. Getting your gums back to good health is all that is needed, but it takes time and fortitude.

  • Larry says:

    I quit smoking tobacco about 3 months ago and switched to e cig’s. Got to where I could not breath anymore. Went to hospital, had exra’s done and the doc said I had no sign of emphasima or copd. Was given antibiotics and sent home. Two weeks later, I had to return to the hospital and was admitted for 4 days. They then said I had copd and am now home on oxygen, antibiotics and breathers. Could not seem to get the doc’s to even consider PG. Am at this point hoping that the symptoms lesson and my health improves. I had shortness of breath, feelings of nausea, phlegm in my throat causing coughing, dizziness, etc. Hoping these effects go away. I also had an allergic reaction a couple of years ago but couldn’t figure out what I was allergic too until now. Had to carry epipen ever since. Now think that it was PG in my toothpaste at the time. Be very attentive to your health when using e cig’s. Hope I improve. Thanks for reading, Larry

    • Destry says:

      I wanted to ask you if your health has gotten better? I have gone through the exact thing as you Larry . I quit smokeing 4 years ago and used the Safe Cig brand .They wwent out of business , so I went to the new vape pen anyway after a short time I could not breath and have had several URI and now they say cold .I say no way it has to be the vapeing I am making some changes .

  • A.j Laughter. says:

    Im trying different ecigs.i hav raised bumps.red .itchy. i enjoy ecigs havtried all kinds of vg to pg.same reaction. Anyone experience this?

    • Rosemarie says:

      Also having some sort of issue with allergic reaction. I keep getting canker scores on my tong and in my mouth painful. I stopped smoking 4 months ago and dont want to go back. I switch to this new E-cig for the blu I have been useing the new one for 3 days and I have a pimple on my tong How cant it be a reaction? PG free? Hope it is not.

    • Carl Payling says:

      I av been suffering these same symptoms from vaporizing ..really itchy skin and white raised lumps ..so I av been taking antiestamins which works an hour or so later .. never suffered with anything in 31 years but now not the case and only van put it down to the ecig a I am using .. how this helps someone in the future as I will be stopping vaping

  • Jo Evans says:

    My husband gave up smoking early January and switched to e-cigs. He has always suffered from exzema but since using it has had a number of severe allergic reactions to something, and has had to visit A & E and his GP, who have said they do not know what is causing them.
    I know he hasn’t mentioned to the doctor that he uses an e-cig, and I am concerned that this could be causing the problems he is experiencing.
    Has anyone experienced similar problems.

  • tina says:

    I just started vaping with a new tank and a new flavor. the day after I started I woke up with red splotches and canker sores on the sides of my tongue. I’m wondering if they are being caused by the liquid.

  • kelly says:

    I have been vaping tsunami brand e cig with 12mg juice for about 5 months now and it was going great untill the last 2 weeks every time I use it now I get red blisters on th back of my throat and have pain in my ears. I tried just not useing it for 3 days and had no pain at all, but when I tried it again it came right back. It only takes 2 to 3 puffs for it to feel way worse and 12mg is already a pretty low dose for me. Has anyone else has this issue or have any way to fix it besides just quit?

  • Hill says:

    I stop smoking ecigs this year in janurary. I notice a rash on the left side of my cheast and on my fore head.i will start looking for 100% vig gly/ hope it helps. I dont want to go back to smoking cigs

    • Susie says:

      I quit cigarettes in December and have been vaping since then. However, I have an itchy red rash all over my body, mainly on legs and arms. Went to doctor yesterday and got some Prednisone and will take that and an antihistimine till it goes away, but Dr. said he has heard nothing about rashes from the PG in the vapor juice. I purchase my juice from a variety of sources. He suspects something else new in my diet or lotion or perfume. Anyone out there experiencing this?

      • Diane says:

        I am Suzie. I have been using the e-cigs for just over a month. Glad to be off tobacco and really like the e-cigs. However, now I have a rash all over my back and upper chest. I suspect that it is the e-cigs. I’m using V2 menthols. It may be the menthol too.

      • MaryAnne says:

        Hi Susie: I saw your review on Vaperanks.com. Did the prednisone shot and antihistamines help? I am so miserable with what I assume are side-effects from the 21st Century e-cig I use. Would be interested to know if the Dr.’s visit helped you, and if you switched to VG from PG. Thank you!

      • nancy c says:

        Yes to all who are getting red itchy bumps like bug bites and red rashes on their bodies, I have been vaping since Jan, about a month ago stared with red burning skin on my eyelids and under eyes, went to allergist told they couldn’t find anything I was allergic to after all tests for the past two days I have red itchy burning bumps on my body, I want to crawl out of my skin, I do believe it is the vaping jucies, makes me want to go back to cigs didn’t have these problems with cigs. anyone else have this problem

  • Sylvain says:

    I quit smoking after 31 years, used the patch and nicorets gum. the Patch burned my skin and the gum well it taste really bad. I quit the patch and the gum and tried flavored (raspberry) e cig. with out nicotine and after just 10 min my face and body were covered in bumps like I was attacked by an army of mosquitoes. I stop and 20 minutes later was back to normal. I wont try that again. So now I quit all no more patch no gum and no ecig and its all good. I drink a lot of water seems to help.

  • Sean says:

    I used e cig and a week later ended up with blocked ears and dizzy and spent two days in bed unable to move without the room spinning don’t know if its connected to the e cig or not but came on quickly after I started using it co insistence maybe?! Not sure can’t say one way or the other but I’ve stopped using it and using lozenges now and willpower I’m already a wheelchair user and the last thing I need is to be dizzy

  • Diane says:

    I quit smoking 7 months ago and have been using an ECig since then.But let me tell you I feel 100x worse now then when I smoked,never thought could
    be eliquid but is.i had canker sores on side of tongue,everlasting headaches that nothing helps.My body hurts everywhere,like my insides are too big for my outside.1 month phlegmy cough that burns.no appetite and rotten sleep.i know it sounds like a lot but am going to stop ecig and see if improves,my doctor can’t find anything wrong with me but never thought to tell her about ecig.if not regulated which I didn’t know,who knows what’s in these,not like we can test it?so if anyone has any of these symptoms try like me to not use for at least a week.can’t hurt.please try,not worth our health,BE STRONG!!!!

  • john wayne says:

    i just got into vaping.been using it for about a week now..im trying to quit smoking because im having trouble breathing.so i decided to try vape..in 5days using vape i only smoked 2 cigs..but the thing is.i feel like im going to have a fever i also get slight headache numbness in my arms everytime i vape.im only using 6mg of nicotine because i only smoke 5-8cigs a day.im not sure if im allergic to the pg/vg thingy or maybe im smoking alot more than i used to..

    • Karen says:
      5 stars

      Me to!Ive had a tightening in my back,numbing sensation,thought it was pneumonia,starting taking antibiotics,didn’t help,then I knew it was vaping,I really don’t think it’s wise to inhale liquid anything!Still feeling sick

  • K says:

    I quit smoking over two years ago but in the last six months I began vaping. About four months ago, I started getting tonsillitis so bad that the drs tested me for strep and it was negative. This has happened every few weeks for four months so I am being referred to an ent to check it out. It is painful and I get these white pus pockets all over my tonsils… I’m probably allergic to something in the ecigs (I have tried two different brands). Boo hoo

  • Doug Forbes says:

    Started vaping in Jan/14. During the past 3 weeks I developed a bad rash (bumps) on my scalp, my face & my neck. Just ordered some 100% VG Juice aqnd will try that.
    I hope it was the PG, as I have not smoked an analog cig since I started vaping. I will post follow-up after going to the VG only juice.

    • Rob Vaughan says:

      I really wish people would have thought to come back on this site and tell everyone if switching to 100%VG worked. I’m waiting for my order to come in and hope it works also. I too had sores on the sides of my tongue and hives in my upper body. I have been through 1.5 cycles if prednisone now and have an appointment with an allergist IN 15 DAYS!!! Hard to believe that’s the soonest they could see me, considering I have hives all over my chest, stomach, sides, under my armpits and on my under my upper portion of my arms. I am also taking other medicines that I started a few months ago, so I’m trying to eliminate one thing at a time. I really hope it’s not the ecig or the medicine , as I use and “need” both…

      • Vranks says:

        Rob, I’m no doctor, but if you really have hives all over your chest, what you need to do is stop using e-cigs immediately, at least so you can confirm it’s the PG that’s causing them. I’ve only once had a case of mild allergy, to a specific brand of PG e-liquid, but I stopped using them for just a couple of days and my condition improved significantly. In my case, I had some itch spots on my forearms, but they vanished quickly after I stopped vaping. Let the medicine do it’s thing.

        As far as I know, the risk of VG causing allergies is very low, at least compared to PG. I recommend you try a VG based juice, but ONLY after you’ve confirmed PG is the culprit, and for that you need to stop vaping, at least for a couple of days. Hope you get better soon!

      • Sheri Lyn says:

        I too had the pretty much the same reaction as you did. I stopped smoking and started vapping and within 1 month I was covered in hives from head to toe. My entire body was red and I felt like I was ready to take a dirt nap. I went to my local Urgent Care doctor and they gave me a steroid shot, a Medrol dose pack and an antihistamine. The rash went away in about one week of stopping the e-cig with PG. I ordered pure VG from Virgin Vapor and having been smoking it for about three weeks now and today, I am starting to feel all the same old symptoms. My skin is turning red and I am itching all over. Apparently, the only thing to do now is just to quit all forms or smoking and see what happens to me now. Best of luck to you! Sheri

    • Pamela Davey says:

      It seems to me it is the amount of nicotine that u are vaping. When I vape a high nicotine I get a rash on my scalp it really itches and there are small bumps on my scalp. If I lower the nicotine, the bumps go away. I have seen this happen twice now.

  • Laura says:
    5 stars

    I’ve been vaping since April 4, 2014. Last cig April 6. Going on over a week now, I started with sores in my mouth (feels like a mouth full of gravel)..and for the last 3-4 days my lips have been swollen/sore/burn (name it)!! My lips seriously have tripled in size! Basically after reading everyone’s posts, I guess I’m done vaping :/ now to pray my mouth and lips stop burning! I mean real burn, like eating a hot pepper….that kind of burn (it won’t go away though). Thank you for your posts!!

  • Hunter says:

    Quit e cigs now. All kinds; disposable or refillable. I started using the refillable kind in place of chewing tobacco just as a way to get my fix. I thought I was addicted to dipping until I starting using the vape. In two weeks, I was using the e cig after every meal and every thing I did. Realized that I was getting insanely addicted to it so I destroyed it. I also developed some sort of hives on the inside of my forearms. These things are no good.

  • Larry says:

    I started vaping the end of February. I started experiencing itchy spots on my legs and arms. I also have a soreness in my throat. I started vaping to get off of oral tobacco (dipping). I stopped vaping three days ago and my throat has gotten much better. I am hopeful the itchy spots will disappear. Shame as the e-cigs did solve my nicotine urge. Oh well.

  • danny says:

    Started Gamucci brand a few months ago,every now and then I get sores and ulcers. All a bit wierd and sleeping pattern altered. Mouth is dry alot also.

  • yvonne says:

    I recently started smokin the ecig and still smoked cigarettes after 2 days i started having feelings in my body as if i was a drug abuser not having drugs in my system and were so severe that i was having body spazms, feelings like i wanted to “jump out of my skin” shaky overall horrible sleep, sweating and lethargy. I actually thought it was the pain pills i am on that were faulty. I felt so bad that i couldnt get out of bed and normally function so with that i didnt vape. After the days of not vaping it disappeared all together so im wondering if i am allergic to them? Im not even gona experiment because im so afraid of having this reaction happen again. Is there anybody out there that has had these symptoms? May 7/14

  • pat says:

    I have been using egig same brand for about a year 2 months ago I got big blister on leg thought from slipping on ice well to date i have had 4 different ones been to 2 docs they did cultures no virus shows up im wondering if it is the ecig I have not smoked a real cig in 1 year but if this is from the PG I am going to see what another brand does they dont tell you how much PG or what kind is in it but that is the only thing i can think of that has changed going from cig to ecig if this has happened to anyone please post so i can see if im not the only one magic mist brand

  • Doris says:

    I started using e cigs in March . I have tried both PG and VG and the reactions I’m experiencing are phlem in the back of my throat, red itchy skin rash and severe wind in my stomach. Is there any juice other than PG and VG available?

  • Deb says:

    I’ve been vaping for a little over a month and have been totally off regular cigs for about 9 days now. I have used various flavors and different appliances to vape, and until a few days ago have really enjoyed vaping. However, now I am experiencing sore gums on my upper mouth and burning in my throat when I vape. The burning disappears in my throat disappears when I stop vaping, but my gums remain sore. I have just ordered 20/80 Pg/VG, and am hoping it’s the PG causing this, because I thoroughly enjoy vaping. I will post a reply after I get my products in a few days and have had a chance to see if it’s made a difference.

  • carol mcgovern says:

    I have been using e cigs for the last 5 months.i have suffered uncontrollable itching (HIVES)
    nothing from the Doctor seems to work,
    so have now stopped using e cigs altogether
    hope the hives go away now.
    I was using GAMUCCI & VIP e cigs.

  • jan says:

    I have been vamping for about 9 months and have enjoyed not smoking cigarettes. However, during this time, I have developed an eczema type rash over and under both eyelids. Bumpy skin, sore, burns, so much so my GP referred me to a dermatologist, who stated that I must be allergic to something. I have tried VG, the problem still remains, i have tried changing my cosmetics, facial wash, shampoo you name it i ave done it and the problem still remains. Now the final test is to stop vamping altogether and see if intact tis is the culprit….Hasten to add, I have never experienced eczema before.

  • Mary says:

    I have been using ecigs for a year, I recently changed from disposable to refillable because of the cost element and have developed a red rash around my nose and mouth that won’t go away. I switched from PG to VG three weeks ago but the problem is still there, I have never had spots or rashes on my face before. I think I will have to stop using them.

  • philainsy says:
    5 stars

    I have been suffering with spots and rashes been very itchy my doc says i have echxma but i never had anyhing like this before i have been putting creams on and bathing in oilatum but some of my spots are still here and i am still itching , this could be vapouring but i dont know yet , i will stop and see what happens – See more at: http://vaperanks.com/am-i-allergic-to-electronic-cigarettes/#comment-68065

  • MaryAnne says:

    I have used the 21st Century e-cig for almost a year, but just recently developed painful sores in my mouth, phlegm in my throat, burning in mouth, inability to swallow at times, an irritating cough. My arms and legs burn…feels like a sunburn, but they’re not red. And the rash on my lower leg remains constantly. The itching on my legs never ceases. And my sleep pattern, too, has changed. Not sleeping well at all. Does anyone know if someone who has used this brand e-cig. I smoked for 30 years, and I truly don’t want to go back. Definitely interested in others who changed from PG to VG!

  • Brad says:

    MaryAnne i would like to here more about your inability to swallow. I have been vaping for 2 years and have recently had difficulty swallowing sometimes and an upset stomach often. I have been baffled as to what my problem is and was wondering if it was my vaping.

  • Ann says:

    Hi I have been using the vapor for about 2 years haven’t smoked cigs since thanksgiving 2013 well I was trying to see if anyone has had a problem with their tonsils , I had to have a tonsilectomy march 2014 due. To getting tonsil stones which are a form of Bactria in the tonsil ” tonsillitis ” is it possible that there can be Bactria build up in the e liquid I have Been purchasing? Could the vapor be putting in unwanted bad Bactria ?

  • Tom says:
    5 stars

    Well I never had any itchy problems or any problems I have mild asthma.
    Seems i start ed smoking the strawberry flavour had a massive asthma attack short of breath itching skin all over even top of my head!!!!I did my own investigation I stop using it for 3 days and the symptoms went.
    10 days now without using this staff and I feel great day,
    I believe that you should stop 3 or four days to see how you feel if the symptoms are going probably u have got allergic to the liquid.

  • Nan says:

    Started vaping June 2014 w the V3 eGo Spinner using various flavoured e-liquids from VapeShop of 9-12mg of nicotine, 30 % VG / 70% PC … All was well the first 3 wks. A few days ago I noticed I was getting itchy on ankles and arms, thinking it was bug bites until I noticed that the areas had formed puss & looked more like swollen rashes = Hives & and ALARM when red blood blotches started to appear !! I turned to Benadryl and applied natural clay paste to stop the itching & stopped the Vape.Would 100 VG or Less nicotine help ? Or change brand ? … Has anyone found a solution ?

  • jan says:

    ITS NOT THE LIQUID( I tried all vegie) ITS THE NICKEL IN THE BATTERIES!!. I HAVE BEEN WORKING TO SEE IF THERE IS AN ALTERNATIVE NO LUCK YET
    I ‘M DYING HERE!
    ITCHY IN MA PLEASE TELL ME IF ANYONE KNOWS ABOUT THIS HAVE 4 MONTHS CIG FREE

    • Vranks says:

      Hello Jan, your comment drew my attention. How exactly are you getting exposed to the nickel in the batteries? I’m not questioning what you say, I’m simply asking, because most e-cigarette batteries these days are sealed and even if they weren’t, I don’t see how you would come in contact with the nickel. Perhaps you mean the nickel in the cartridges? I haven’t heard of any such allergies, at least not related to electronic cigarettes.

      You should definitely stop using e-cigs for a while, to see if your condition improves, and if you’re not ready to give up on them yet, maybe try a different model and another e-liquid.

      Hope you get better!

  • DEBBIE says:

    HI I BEEN VAPING 4 MONTH
    OK THE FIRST 2 MONTH .I HAVE NOTICED THAT I HAVE PUT A LOT A WEIGHT ON MY STOMACH AREA VERY WINDY ALSO SWAETING A LOT TIRED I DONT SEEM TO BE MY SELF BACK FORTH AT DR MORE TIRED I ON HIGH MENTHOL I THINK I NEED TO GO ON LOW DOSE I DONT WANT GO BACK TO SMOKING BUT THE WAY I FEEL IM THINKING ABOUT CUTTING VAPPING FOR NOW AND GO BACK TO SMOKING HELP

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