Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


I think I inhaled a bit of a melting plastic bag while cooking. 30 minutes later, I got a nosebleed. Should I be worried?
September 19, 2012 5:36 AM   Subscribe

I think I inhaled a bit of a melting plastic bag while cooking. 30 minutes later, I got a nosebleed. Should I be worried?

I was cooking some food and tossed a plastic bag on the counter. Turns out the handle of the bag as well as the grocery label started melting on one of the circles of the electric stove, and when I went back in the room a few minutes later I smelled the burning.

I immediately moved the bag and used a wooden utensil to scrape off the plastic. All the plastic seemed to be off of it now. I turned on the ventilator, left the room for a few minutes, and when I came back, I opened a door opposite the stove to let it disperse.

As a hypochondriac that has finally acknowledged and is starting to recover from it, I reminded myself it would be fine—it was only a bit of plastic and I was ventilating it out.

But of course, as hypochondria is, nothing goes right. I contined cooking. 30 minutes later, when I finished and my food was just moved to a plate, I took a bite. 1 minute later, I started getting a nosebleed that lasted for about 15 minutes as I frantically tried to stop it while simultaneously swearing to stay a hypochondriac forever.

Should I be worried? I'm in Switzerland at the moment and do not have regular medical access. I don't get chronic nosebleeds often (only when picking my nose like an idiot) and this just seems really weird. I just hope this isn't one of the many symptoms that will come about.

Thank you.
posted by suburbs to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
 
Complete coincidence.
posted by sanka at 5:38 AM on September 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


The nose-bleed is most likely related to the stress of over-thinking the situation, but if they continue, see a doctor.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 5:50 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nosebleeds are totally causable by your brain freaking out because its convinced something should be wrong. Similarly, a pile of melting bags in a poorly ventilated space will cause some unpleasant irritation, and just generally suck to be around, but a corner of a bag melting won't really do anything unless your brain thinks it should.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:51 AM on September 19, 2012


Yeah an increase in blood pressure can cause a nosebleed, and that could be caused by stress. The only way I could see this nosebleed being caused by the incident you describe is some sort of direct trauma, and I think you'd be very aware if you inhaled a flaming bag piece into your nose and it caused a nosebleed directly. It doesn't sound like that's what happened.

This might be something you already know, but when you're trying to stop a nosebleed, you should be firmly pinching the lower, soft part of your nose (not the bony bridge of the nose) and holding direct pressure on it. Many people do not realize this and just hold a tissue under the nose or pinch it in the wrong place, or worse, just tilt their head back. It should stop quicker that way. And if the air is cool and dry where you are, put a little Vaseline on the inside of your nose (or other ointment meant to be applied to the body) and that will help to prevent nosebleeds.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:10 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have inhaled fumes from melting plastic bags on multiple occasions, because I am sometimes forgetful when cooking. No symptoms resulted. I am also a hypochondriac and tend to freak out when I am not located near my doctor. You are fine.

Is the air dry around there? Is there other particulate? One thing I have gotten nosebleeds from is when there's a lot of dry leaf particulate in the air.
posted by Frowner at 6:11 AM on September 19, 2012


I don't see your location in your profile, but in much of the US, the weather is turning to fall and the air is markedly drier than it was just a few days ago. Nosebleeds are especially common right now because of the changes in temperature and humidity and I truly think you are fine.
posted by kate blank at 6:53 AM on September 19, 2012


I see nowhere in your post where you would have inhaled plastic. If you mean a bit of smoke from melting plastic, well, was there smoke? It doesn't sound like it. Did you stick your face up to the melting plastic and inhale? Because even then you would have only potentially have irritation from some minor fumes.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:04 AM on September 19, 2012


Plastic bags are usually polyethylene.

The low-temperature burn products of polyethylene are hydrocarbons, mostly innocuous, with smaller amounts of acetone, acetaldehyde, and acetic acid. The acetaldehyde, acetone and acetic acid, usually cause irritation, for which coughing and stinging eyes would be the first symptoms. Nosebleeds are not looked for as a significant symptom of exposure.

Brief, low-dose exposures are very unlikely to have more than immediate, short-term effects---remove the irritant and you're fine. From personal experience, I've never encountered a delayed reaction like the one you describe, particularly without the other symptoms of irritation.
posted by bonehead at 7:39 AM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you all, I really appreciate the answers. I've been feeling better and have this weird feeling in my chest that comes up whenever I climb up and down stairs, but other than that, I'm good.

I'm new to cooking, so I guess this is a little welcome package to the world of cooking.



treehorn+bunny → "This might be something you already know, but when you're trying to stop a nosebleed, you should be firmly pinching the lower, soft part of your nose (not the bony bridge of the nose) and holding direct pressure on it. Many people do not realize this and just hold a tissue under the nose"

It was not something I already knew. I do what my parents told me to do, to put a tissue into my nose, tilt my head forward at the sink, and splash ice cold water on my forehead. It's always worked decently, but I've also always wondered if that's just the normal blood clotting, not the actual water-on-forehead thing.

Thank you for that, I really appreciate it. Nosebleeds are one of the worst things ever and I'm glad there is a better way to stop them.



Frowner → "I have inhaled fumes from melting plastic bags on multiple occasions, because I am sometimes forgetful when cooking. No symptoms resulted. I am also a hypochondriac and tend to freak out when I am not located near my doctor. You are fine.

Is the air dry around there? Is there other particulate? One thing I have gotten nosebleeds from is when there's a lot of dry leaf particulate in the air.
"

Thank you for a first-hand report from the kitchen. Regarding dry air, wow, you might be right. I'm in Interlaken at the moment, which is in the Jungfrau area of Switzerland. Perhaps both the altitude and the dry air around here caused it.



DoubleLune → "I see nowhere in your post where you would have inhaled plastic. If you mean a bit of smoke from melting plastic, well, was there smoke? It doesn't sound like it. Did you stick your face up to the melting plastic and inhale? Because even then you would have only potentially have irritation from some minor fumes."

I think it was just the minor fumes. There was no visible smoke. I didn't stick my face up to it, just saw it and moved the plastic away. I was worried, though, because I used the Internets™ to diagnose myself (great idea amirite) and it seemed like even small amounts of plastic is not good for you.



bonehead → "Plastic bags are usually polyethylene.

The low-temperature burn products of polyethylene are hydrocarbons, mostly innocuous, with smaller amounts of acetone, acetaldehyde, and acetic acid. The acetaldehyde, acetone and acetic acid, usually cause irritation, for which coughing and stinging eyes would be the first symptoms. Nosebleeds are not looked for as a significant symptom of exposure.

Brief, low-dose exposures are very unlikely to have more than immediate, short-term effects---remove the irritant and you're fine. From personal experience, I've never encountered a delayed reaction like the one you describe, particularly without the other symptoms of irritation.
"

That's great news. I googled "plastic fumes nose bleed" and found absolutely nothing, so that explains why. I didn't experience any of the symptoms you mentioned (no coughing, no stinging eyes). Thanks for your scientific insight into this.



Again, folks, thanks a lot for your help. You've helped this hypochondriac survive another day. Cheers.
posted by suburbs at 8:29 AM on September 19, 2012


If you continue to get nosebleeds, a doctor told us when our daughter got a bad one that a good way to stop them is to saturate half a cotton ball (or twp halves, if both nostrils are bleeding) with afrin and stick it up your nose. It's a vasoconstrictor and helps stop bleeding quickly.
posted by leahwrenn at 9:07 AM on September 19, 2012


Frequent nosebleeder here. Both high altitude and dry air absolutely do cause nosebleeds. (I get them more or less instantly whenever I'm on an airplane for example.) If you'll be staying at altitude for a while, there are saline gels you can put in your nose to keep them moist -- it's a little bit icky but effective.

As for stopping them -- the water-on-the-forehead thing (or the back of the neck, or the feet, or any of the other old wives tales) is useless. I usually just tilt my head forward over a tissue or a sink and wait for clotting (if I pinch my nose shut it usually just fills up with blood; I assume the bleed point is higher up than I can pinch.)
posted by ook at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2012


leahwrenn: "If you continue to get nosebleeds, a doctor told us when our daughter got a bad one that a good way to stop them is to saturate half a cotton ball (or twp halves, if both nostrils are bleeding) with afrin and stick it up your nose. It's a vasoconstrictor and helps stop bleeding quickly."

Awesome tip, thank you. Never heard of Afrin before, but I will get one for my medicine kit.

ook: "Frequent nosebleeder here. Both high altitude and dry air absolutely do cause nosebleeds. (I get them more or less instantly whenever I'm on an airplane for example.) If you'll be staying at altitude for a while, there are saline gels you can put in your nose to keep them moist -- it's a little bit icky but effective.

As for stopping them -- the water-on-the-forehead thing (or the back of the neck, or the feet, or any of the other old wives tales) is useless. I usually just tilt my head forward over a tissue or a sink and wait for clotting (if I pinch my nose shut it usually just fills up with blood; I assume the bleed point is higher up than I can pinch.)
"

So it is an old wives tale! Rats. I guess I've been giving the water-on-the-forehead trick too much credit while I should have been thanking blood coagulants.

Yeah, I feel like the bleed point is usually much higher up and not in the pinchable part of the nose. Usually, when I stick a wadded up tissue in my nose to soak the blood, it just fills up with more blood, so I reckon it's a higher point.

Thanks for the saline gel suggestion. I won't be in this high altitude area for much longer, but I might be later on on this trip. Appreciate your help.
posted by suburbs at 10:42 AM on September 19, 2012


Glad to be of service. Misconceptions about nosebleeds are common, that's why I mentioned it. A wadded up tissue in your nose is not enough pressure to stop a nosebleed. If you get sick of pinching your nose, in the medical profession we use two wooden tongue depressors taped together into a 'clothespin'-like configuration to pinch the nose, but it takes a little skill to fashion that for yourself.

Your parents were right in that leaning over the sink is better than tilting your head back and letting the blood run into your stomach, which can cause nausea. But the cold water thing, not so much.

90% of nosebleeds come from Kiesselbach's plexus in the anterior nose. So either I'm wrong and you're one of the few people who gets a posterior nosebleed, or the pressure isn't being applied long or hard enough.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 12:14 PM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


One time my wife was boiling baby bottles and forgot and went to bed. I woke up a few hours later needing to pee, and the apartment was full of noxious, thick plastic smoke. The water had evaporated, then the plastic melted and caught fire in the pan.

It smelled really terrible and gave me a short-term sore throat, but there were no long-term effects that I've seen. It was about 8 years ago.
posted by tacodave at 3:13 PM on September 19, 2012


treehorn+bunny → "Glad to be of service. Misconceptions about nosebleeds are common, that's why I mentioned it. A wadded up tissue in your nose is not enough pressure to stop a nosebleed."

Count one more informed person!

tacodave → "One time my wife was boiling baby bottles and forgot and went to bed. I woke up a few hours later needing to pee, and the apartment was full of noxious, thick plastic smoke. The water had evaporated, then the plastic melted and caught fire in the pan.

It smelled really terrible and gave me a short-term sore throat, but there were no long-term effects that I've seen. It was about 8 years ago.
"

Wow, that's crazy! I guess there's no problem, then. Thanks for sharing your story—I can't imagine how it must have felt to wake up to that. *keeps that in mind in case I ever get children*
posted by suburbs at 12:36 PM on October 14, 2012


« Older Hi I have programmed on ecl...   |  How can I truncate (cut the en... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.