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ACAAI > Patients & Public > Resources > Ask the Allergist

Ask the Allergist - Fog Machines and Asthma?

Q: Can you tell me if fog machines sometimes contribute to asthma attacks?

A: Fog machines use various components to create their effects. Water, dry ice, liquid nitrogen and liquid air have all been used to create a fog effect, and additional chemicals can be added - such as glycol in water-based fog. The first issue with these machines is assuring adequate ventilation to allow proper oxygen levels. In people with asthma and airways hyper-reactivity, the irritant effect of short term exposure to water-based fog machines - particularly when the chemical glycol is used - could trigger acute asthma symptoms including cough, wheeze, chest tightness and shortness of breath. Even in a person without asthma, short term exposure to glycol-containing fog machines can be associated with headaches, dizziness, drowsiness, and eye irritation. Prolonged exposure to this substance in a person with asthma could trigger even more severe respiratory difficulty and could cause bronchitic symptoms even in those without asthma. Long term exposure to smoke and fog can result in upper airway and voice symptoms as well, while extended (multi-year) exposure to smoke and fog has been associated with both short-term and long-term respiratory health problems. So be careful around fog machines if you have asthma - and check how they generate their "fog"! Fog machines using liquid air are the safest, as those do not reduce oxygen levels and do not contain glycol.