Wood smoke allergy?

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gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Has anybody else here dealt with this?

Mine developed last fall, after 5 years of burning. I don't think I had it before, but it could just have been mild enough to be below my awareness. Last fall, I replaced my tiny Hearthstone Tribute with the Hearthstone Heritage, and that's when my problem started. Neither stove lets enough smoke into the house to notice, but the Heritage's very wide front door, I finally realized when I saw it from the right angle, pulls just a tiny, diffuse puff of smoke out when you yank it open. That's enough to set off my allergy-- which is maddening because I've never had any kind of allergy to anything in my life before, including things like poison ivy or wild parsnip.

I've now got it pretty much under control by using the smaller side door exclusively, and finding an OTC anti-allergy med (Nasacort) that works pretty well. I still sneeze violently several times a day and have an intermittently stuffy nose, but it's way, way better than it was.

Just curious if anybody else has had this problem and how you've dealt with it.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
is it possible that something got into your wood supply that triggered your allergy?
Interesting thought. Like what? I've had the same supplier for the last four years, and he's not into weird chemicals and the like, if that's what you mean.

The more I think about it, the more I remember past years complaining about having a mild but long-lasting cold in the fall and much of the winter, so I think I may have had this for some time, it's just that much less smoke got out of the stove with the smaller one.

The maddening thing is that not much gets out of this stove, either. I've never smelled it in the house, and I only saw it, as I say, when I happened to be at just the right angle to see the small but distinct, very diffuse little puff come floating out.
 

GeHmTS

Feeling the Heat
Nov 29, 2013
412
Massachusetts
Wood is known for harboring living things like mold, microorganism, etc... Maybe the wood has some living/dying organism that is being released that maybe causing your allergy. You would have to get the wood analyzed for this. Make sure the wood is from a clean source and not being harvested due to diseases. Even the act of splitting and carrying the wood may release spores and such into the room.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Wood is known for harboring living things like mold, microorganism, etc... Maybe the wood has some living/dying organism that is being released that maybe causing your allergy. You would have to get the wood analyzed for this. Make sure the wood is from a clean source and not being harvested due to diseases. Even the act of splitting and carrying the wood may release spores and such into the room.
I see. Well, my wood is kiln-dried (down to 20 to 22 on the mm), so I'm not sure what allergen of that sort could still be present in it. My supplier gets his wood from a large number of different guys from all over the area, and it doesn't seem to me that any particular batch is worse or better than any other.

In any case, he's my only practical option at this point, so if I have to add the cost of the Nasacort into my fuel expenses, I'm still better off!
 

GeHmTS

Feeling the Heat
Nov 29, 2013
412
Massachusetts
Some organisms can still exist in wood down to 20 mm although it will not thrive. Even dead organisms may still be a problem. It's the by-products from these burning organisms that maybe the issue.

I hope you will be able to continue to burn and not have it get any worse. I have heard of a few cases where people had to switch to pellets because of wood allergies.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Some organisms can still exist in wood down to 20 mm although it will not thrive. Even dead organisms may still be a problem. It's the by-products from these burning organisms that maybe the issue.

I hope you will be able to continue to burn and not have it get any worse. I have heard of a few cases where people had to switch to pellets because of wood allergies.
Oh, man, I hope so, too. I love wood heat and don't like pellet stoves *at all*. I live way out in the country, so just the noise of a pellet stove destroys my enjoyment of the silence, never mind the many other disadvantages.

But again, the fact that my supplier gets his wood from many different independent sources that vary from year to year and my allergic reaction is pretty consistent seems to make this explanation unlikely. In any case, if it doesn't get any worse, I can live with it. I was just curious whether other people here had this issue.
 

jatoxico

Minister of Fire
Aug 8, 2011
4,218
Long Island NY
Do you humidify the air? Might help. I have allergies and dry air doesn't help. Winter is dry in the first place, with the stove going any dust in the house gets kicked up easy and dry air itself irritates my sinuses causing inflammation so double whammy.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Do you humidify the air? Might help. I have allergies and dry air doesn't help. Winter is dry in the first place, with the stove going any dust in the house gets kicked up easy and dry air itself irritates my sinuses causing inflammation so double whammy.
Oh, yeah, that for sure aggravates things. But even when the air is well humidified, I get bouts of paroxismal sneezing. So as far as I can tell, the drier air is just a minor issue, and a problem mostly when I'm in my office, far from the stove and usually requiring additional heat from one of those little electric blower heaters.

The Nasacort has been a real life saver for me. Doesn't completely eliminate the problem, but reduces it to an occarional minor irritant as opposed to full-time misery.
 

DougA

Minister of Fire
Dec 13, 2012
1,938
S. ON
I have a similar situation. I switched from a VC to a Hearthstone Equinox and I find there is now almost no residual smoke in the air. Yes, I do get a bit when I open the door but the trick seems to be to open it a crack, hesitate a moment, then open slowly.
If it continues, you might consider an indoor air filter/purifier that is placed in the area of the stove and runs all winter. We make a point of trying to get as much fresh air into our house in the winter. We all want to have a tight home to keep the heat in but you need fresh air to breathe. The other option if all else fails is adding an air exchanger to bring in more fresh air but keep in mind you will lose a lot of valuable heat when they are on.
You should get tested as you may actually be allergic to dust not smoke.
whoops, just read your last post. Make sure that you have cleaned out the small electric heater in your office. I use them too and they are absolutely FULL of horribly stinky dust. You get the same thing inside computers, etc. Take it outside and use some compressed air to completely blow out the insides. I can hack for hours when I do that task - it's awful stuff.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
11,850
Southern IN
open it a crack, hesitate a moment, then open slowly.
If it continues, you might consider an indoor air filter/purifier that is placed in the area of the stove and runs all winter. We make a point of trying to get as much fresh air into our house in the winter. We all want to have a tight home to keep the heat in but you need fresh air to breathe. The other option if all else fails is adding an air exchanger to bring in more fresh air but keep in mind you will lose a lot of valuable heat when they are on.
You should get tested as you may actually be allergic to dust not smoke.
whoops, just read your last post. Make sure that you have cleaned out the small electric heater in your office. I use them too and they are absolutely FULL of horribly stinky dust. You get the same thing inside computers, etc. Take it outside and use some compressed air to completely blow out the insides. I can hack for hours when I do that task - it's awful stuff.
Good post, DougA. In that situation, I'd be checking into the purifiers for sure.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
I have a similar situation. I switched from a VC to a Hearthstone Equinox and I find there is now almost no residual smoke in the air. Yes, I do get a bit when I open the door but the trick seems to be to open it a crack, hesitate a moment, then open slowly.
If it continues, you might consider an indoor air filter/purifier that is placed in the area of the stove and runs all winter. We make a point of trying to get as much fresh air into our house in the winter. We all want to have a tight home to keep the heat in but you need fresh air to breathe. The other option if all else fails is adding an air exchanger to bring in more fresh air but keep in mind you will lose a lot of valuable heat when they are on.
You should get tested as you may actually be allergic to dust not smoke.
whoops, just read your last post. Make sure that you have cleaned out the small electric heater in your office. I use them too and they are absolutely FULL of horribly stinky dust. You get the same thing inside computers, etc. Take it outside and use some compressed air to completely blow out the insides. I can hack for hours when I do that task - it's awful stuff.
Thanks for the tip on the little heaters. By compressed air-- you mean those cans they sell for cleaning computer keyboards and the like? I would not have thought of doing that, and it does sound like a good idea.

I don't really see how this could be a dust allergy since it goes away at the end of the heating season and starts up again in the fall, and if anything, it's dustier around here in the summer. And it seems way too much of a coincidence to suddenly develop a dust allergy just when I start using a new stove. This is a 170-year-old farmhouse, and being too tightly sealed ain't one of its problems!
 

DougA

Minister of Fire
Dec 13, 2012
1,938
S. ON
I would still get a proper test to be sure. A friend of mine works in a cigarette factory and suddenly developed an allergy to tobacco dust but is a chain smoker. I also know lots of people who have allergies to one species of tree pollen but the rest are no problem. Lesson is, only a proper test will tell for sure.

I use a compressor to blow out the stuff. Not sure if the canned version will have enough power but you can sure try, anything will help. Do it outside on a windy day - facing the right way. <>
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
I would still get a proper test to be sure. A friend of mine works in a cigarette factory and suddenly developed an allergy to tobacco dust but is a chain smoker. I also know lots of people who have allergies to one species of tree pollen but the rest are no problem. Lesson is, only a proper test will tell for sure.

I use a compressor to blow out the stuff. Not sure if the canned version will have enough power but you can sure try, anything will help. Do it outside on a windy day - facing the right way. <>
It's truly not enough of a problem to go to the hassle and expense of either getting tested or putting in an air filter.

An air compressor is something my mechanic buddy down the road would likely have in his car repair garage, yes?
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
11,850
Southern IN
It's truly not enough of a problem to go to the hassle and expense of either getting tested or putting in an air filter.
No hassle at all to get a small,portable air purifier or two. They are about the size of a coffee maker or smaller, you can set them about anywhere, in any room. I don't think they are too pricy, either. I don't know much about them, I'd have to do some research because there are different technologies, etc.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
No hassle at all to get a small,portable air purifier or two. They are about the size of a coffee maker or smaller, you can set them about anywhere, in any room. I don't think they are too pricy, either. I don't know much about them, I'd have to do some research because there are different technologies, etc.
Lol! Thanks much for the advice, and I'll bear it in mind. But really, each to his/her own. It's just not something I would ever do for a whole bunch of lifestyle reasons unless I were in extremis, and I'm nowhere near that.
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,047
Unity/Bangor, Maine
Not sure if it is an allergy or what have you . . . but my wife says she thinks she is allergic to the ash.

I do know that even with using the humidifier my nose gets clogged up something awful over night.
 

WoodpileOCD

Minister of Fire
Jan 19, 2011
722
Central NC
I'm with DougA. You said something about when you "yank the door open". If you open it slowly it should start sucking air IN as soon as it's cracked. I think just about any of them will puff a little smoke if you open them too fast. I know my Buck 91 does.
 
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gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Not sure if it is an allergy or what have you . . . but my wife says she thinks she is allergic to the ash.

I do know that even with using the humidifier my nose gets clogged up something awful over night.
It can be hard to pin down what's causing the problem. I did some experimenting during a warm spell this fall when I wasn't burning for a few days and had no symptoms, including sticking my head almost in the stove door and fluffing the ashes into a nice cloud inside the box-- no symptoms at all. The next day, I spent 10 minutes inside my enclosed woodshed breathing deeply and moving the splits around. No symptoms. The next day, lit a little fire-- bam!

Turns out there are a bunch of different kinds of allergies. The hay fever we think of as characteristic is a histamine reaction, but there are others, I've learned to my surprise. I tried a couple different over-the-counter standards, Allegra and the like, last year and got no relief at all. This year, this Nasacort, which used to be prescription only, came out as an OTC and advertises itself specifically for non-histamine allergies. I tried it not expecting much, but bingo. It's one of those things that takes about a week to have an effect, but it's totally worked for me. Try one of the histamine things first because they are cheaper, but if they don't work (they're all basically the same except for the side effects), try the Nasacort and give it a week.

Humidity isn't going to solve an allergy, if that's what the problem is, it'll just make it slightly less miserable. What you don't want to do is take decongestant regularly for weeks or months because your system gets accustomed to it and you end up with basically permanent congestion.

Being able to breathe through your nose is one of those underappreciated things in life until you can't do it anymore.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
I'm with DougA. You said something about when you "yank the door open". If you open it slowly it should start sucking air IN as soon as it's cracked. I think just about any of them will puff a little smoke if you open them too fast. I know my Buck 91 does.
Yeah, and not being a dumbass, I learned not to yank the door open. And I almost never open the big front door anymore anyway, only the smaller side one. But during the course of the day, many fire cycles with my relatively small stove, and therefore openings of the door, enough gets out anyway to provoke the allergic reaction. It doesn't take much.
 

Woody Stover

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2010
11,850
Southern IN
But during the course of the day, many fire cycles with my relatively small stove, and therefore openings of the door, enough gets out anyway to provoke the allergic reaction.
Ashes too: That bird is covered with 'em! ;)
 

firefighterjake

Minister of Fire
Jul 22, 2008
19,047
Unity/Bangor, Maine
. . . What you don't want to do is take decongestant regularly for weeks or months because your system gets accustomed to it and you end up with basically permanent congestion.

. . ..
Yeah, I learned that lesson many years ago when I was using too much nasal decongestant for too long . . . my body got "hooked" on the stuff. Going cold turkey and having the nasal passages shut right down for a week or so was not a whole lot of fun. Now I only use the decongestant sparingly.
 

DougA

Minister of Fire
Dec 13, 2012
1,938
S. ON
Yup, I went through that too. I got tested years ago because I was sneezing endlessly when I was in a dusty room. Turns out it wasn't dust but dust mites. So, you kill the mites and it's OK. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Yeah, I learned that lesson many years ago when I was using too much nasal decongestant for too long . . . my body got "hooked" on the stuff. Going cold turkey and having the nasal passages shut right down for a week or so was not a whole lot of fun. Now I only use the decongestant sparingly.
Ugh. Sparingly is the word for most OTC medications, IMO. This Nasacort thing, which has been around for quite a while as a prescription med, is intended to be taken daily long-term, doesn't work at all as a spot treatment, so I make an exception for it.
 

gyrfalcon

Minister of Fire
Dec 25, 2007
1,837
Champlain Valley, Vermont
Yup, I went through that too. I got tested years ago because I was sneezing endlessly when I was in a dusty room. Turns out it wasn't dust but dust mites. So, you kill the mites and it's OK. :rolleyes::rolleyes:
Heh. Well, that's kinda my point about testing. How do you kill dust mites? You keep the dust vacuumed. So who cares whether it's the dust or the mites that's causing the problem, other than satisfying intellectual curiosity, I guess.
 
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