Coughing and balsamic
November 6, 2013 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Ok, a similar question was posted here once about sulfites/vinegar aggravating asthma. My question is definitely similar, but not the same. I've searched the internet for the answer, and actually, the AskMeFi question was the closest answer I've found. Last week I roasted beets with a balsamic dressing. I always cough a lot when I cook with or eat vinegar in general, but balsamic seems to be worse. It's a week later, and I am still spontaneously coughing!!! What the hell?! Could it be tied to the balsamic? It is not a "sick" cough. It's like all of the sudden my lungs feel like I am still breathing balsamic, but clearly I am not. Does anyone else on here have this problem? Could I be allergic to vinegar? Doesn't that seem an odd reaction, in any case? Help meeeeee. I'm worried I ruined my lungs.
posted by kbennett289 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total)
Vinegar and other acidic things (e.g., citrus) definitely trigger my cough-variant asthma. I haven't been able to find any info online documenting a link, so I've just decided to believe my own experience.

I imagine that when you consumed the vinegar, your asthma flared up, and the inflammation might still be in the process of subsiding. I don't like taking albuterol when I don't have to, and I've found that the next best thing, believe it or not, is sipping plain hot water.

I love vinegar and pickled things, but I try to be very conscious of my breathing and swallowing when I consume it in order to avoid any problems.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:37 PM on November 6, 2013

Response by poster: I should clarify...I do not have asthma. The last person who asked a similar question did. Thanks!
posted by kbennett289 at 4:39 PM on November 6, 2013

Asthma is basically just an irritation in your lungs that narrows your airways. Not a doctor, but I imagine vinegar could cause some sort of spasm/inflammation even if you're not asthmatic.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:41 PM on November 6, 2013

The vinegar thing is when it is cooking and the fumes are getting to you. Not a week later. Asthma reacts to irritants, whether it's exercise induced or other things: dust, pet dander, pollutants, etc.

So for instance: you don't want to make jerk pork/chicken and fry it up in your kitchen. The fumes will reduce you and anyone without asthma. You don't want to boil vinegar and inhale the fumes. But it's going to get cleared out eventually.

If you have aired out your place, and there are no fumes present, you may have some other thing going on. A cold. Bronchitis. Dust. Smoke. Pet dander. Etc. Because I do not have asthma and I have done all of the above, boiled vinegar, seared things with hot pepper jerk rub, just about killed myself with the fumes, and a day later, no symptoms.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:50 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have not had a sustained reaction like you, but I too cough every time I eat a salad with vinaigrette or anything else with vinegar (pickles, etc). Even just the fumes from vinegar are enough to make me start coughing (so I usually avoid these foods). I had no idea this could be cough-variant asthma but this is incredibly interesting to me that other people have this reaction. I have not noticed any difference in terms of balsamic vs. non-balsamic, they both make me cough.
posted by Mallenroh at 4:50 PM on November 6, 2013

The number one trigger of adult asthma exacerbations is acid reflux / GERD. The juices bubble up the esophagus and irritate the trachea and bronchi. Coughing is a common sign of GERD / silent heartburn, even in people without asthma. This is not as well known as it should be.

Might want to bring it up with your regular doctor and see if medication helps.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 5:31 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, like hobo gitano de queretaro says, this could be an acid reflux issue, since vinegar is, well, acid—you could actually be having LPR (laryngopharyngeal reflux disease), rather than GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), as LPR is often a "silent" reflux that only manifests itself with increased postnasal drip, an irritated throat, coughing, etc. Which one it is depends on how high up in your throat the acid travels and what areas it affects.
posted by limeonaire at 5:56 PM on November 6, 2013

The beets may be significant. Beets, particularly raw, juiced, or undercooked, are known to cause throat irritation and other issues. Here's a link - not sure about the quality of the site overall.
posted by fake at 8:30 PM on November 6, 2013

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