Hunka hunka burnin' lungs
August 17, 2007 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Help me get bronchitis! (yes, you read that right.)

Well, technically I need one of my story's characters to induce bronchitis in herself, or at least a bad chest cold or similar condition (wet coughing, lost voice, rasping, lots of goo in the lungs, etc.). Is it actually possible to intentionally induce something like this? If so, how? The character is female (if that makes any difference), and has limited access to exotic supplies/ingredients. Basically if it can be accomplished with something in the average kitchen or household, she's set.
posted by angry.polymath to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Start smoking.
posted by acorncup at 12:32 PM on August 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Although I do not have the answer to your question, you could have her smoke a pack of cigarettes while doing whatever else she intends to do... This will guarantee a raspy voice (especially if she is a non-smoking character), as well as make whatever she contracts worse and less likely to repair itself overnight.
posted by NotInTheBox at 12:33 PM on August 17, 2007

Also, eating and drinking dairy products will make the results more efficient.
posted by NotInTheBox at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2007

Since doctors aren't supposed to answer questions like this on Metafilter anyway, and since I am prone to chest colds in the wintertime, I feel qualified to answer your question.

From my experience, bronchitis is usually connected in some way with one's physical (or mental, e.g., stress) health and the health of one's immune system. You can't induce it with household supplies.

The best thing to do would be to have the character spend a lot of time in an air conditioned room, perhaps at work, in the winter. AC air is very dry, and dry air damages the lining of the lungs and throat, which makes it easier to catch chest colds.

It would be helpful if there were a bunch of three year olds lying around (one will do) to serve as vectors.

The character should be stressed and run down. No sleep. Heavy workload.

Ah, the days of summer are ending, and months of coughing await!
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 PM on August 17, 2007

The old bleach+ammonia mixture (don't mix bleach and ammonia, kids) forms nasty compounds that will cause a chemical bronchitis. That's why you shouldn't mix bleach and ammonia. On the other hand, if I were trying to damage my lungs with only household chemicals, and make them fill up with goo and have a bad cough, I guess I might start this way.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:54 PM on August 17, 2007

Good answers so far - thanks. To give some more info, the character lives with a domineering and borderline-abusive male in an isolated rural home. She cannot leave the home on her own, so she needs to (subtly) induce believable chest-symptoms (she has a history of respiratory illness) so that the male will take her into town to the doctor, and then they can get on to the next plot point.

I'm thinking that intentional sleep deprivation and long exposure to very cold and dry a/c ought to do the trick.
posted by angry.polymath at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2007

If I had to do this, I'd work with my existing mold allergy. I'd get a lot of rags or old towels moldy/mildewy, set them up in a closed bedroom in front of a running fan (low speed), then sleep/stay in the bedroom for a day or two. Voila!

(I did this unintentionally a few years ago with a moldy humidifier, and I can tell you that it works. The fact that I thought I was sick made me stay in the bedroom much longer. Argh, it was bad.)
posted by amtho at 12:58 PM on August 17, 2007

Given the additional information about the situation, how about putting allergens in the household AC filter?
posted by amtho at 1:01 PM on August 17, 2007

3rding allergens. There are plants I can identify by the burning they produce in my eyes where I know if I breathe near them, I'll be hoarse and wheezing for hours.

She could also perhaps surreptitiously feed a neighborhood cat, and, you know, rub her face and hands with it. Seems like half the people I know are allergic to cats.
posted by crinklebat at 1:05 PM on August 17, 2007

Scream as hard and loud as you can until you taste blood (10-15minutes). Your voice will be wrecked, your eyes will be bloodshot and the sensitivity in your throat will make you cough. Effects will last 24-48 hours.
I used to go for "scream drives" to blow off steam and that's what would happen.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:12 PM on August 17, 2007

Forgot to add....same result from screaming into a pillow.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:13 PM on August 17, 2007

I've got a tendency to bronchitis, and the one sure-fire way to bring on a bout is to go somewhere people are smoking heavily and breathe in some second-hand smoke.

Nasty. Makes me start coughing and I can't stop until I'm miles away and my eyes are streaming with tears.
posted by misha at 1:16 PM on August 17, 2007

@amtho, crinklebat - allergens.. good.. hmm.. know any other good household irritants? I'm thinking at this point that coating the a/c filter with [$substance] and running it will suffice.

@Cat Pie Hurts - screaming until you taste blood.. um..
posted by angry.polymath at 1:21 PM on August 17, 2007

You asked for suggestions. I gave one.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 1:32 PM on August 17, 2007

Just put flour in a brown paper bag, shake it and take a breath. Then you can also have the possibility that the character has miscalculated, induces a near-fatal asthma attack, and wakes up in the hospital.
posted by jamjam at 1:47 PM on August 17, 2007

I was thinking the along the same lines of ikkyu2. Chlorine-induced pneumonia should do the trick. Your character could inhale pool chemicals.


Less sleep, more smoking, crap nutrition, and mingle with lots of people, specifically crowds. Stop handwashing. A chest cold is inevitable.
posted by LoriFLA at 1:52 PM on August 17, 2007

I'm allergic to sulfites. In high school I used to keep dried apricots in my locker so if I wanted to get out of something I could do so. Because I was sneaky that way. Within five minutes, it basically induces a raspy chest cough, my voice becomes raspy & I often lose my voice entirely. My throat pretty much starts closing up. It doesn't hurt, really. Having to go to speech class unprepared would've hurt worse, I thought.

And no, I didn't consider that I was doing anything dangerous. In high school you never do.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:35 PM on August 17, 2007

Keep in mind for your character it will affect her life in other ways. One out of eight or so wines will affect my allergy similarly so I usually drink the same wines or take a sip of a new wine and then wait five minutes to be sure it's safe. Any kind of frozen fruit is verboten. Hashbrowns at Dennys that use frozen potatoes. I have to stay away from NSAID medications. Sulfites are everywhere but not ALL sulfites trigger my allergy.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:38 PM on August 17, 2007

Just to clarify, despite how I describe it as my throat closing up, every teacher assumed it was a horrible chest cold/bronchitis thing. They were always confused when I was fine a few hours before. And my friends were incredibly jealous of my allergy. Pissed them off royally, which of course made it all the more fun for me.

That aside, I really miss the taste of dried apricots though. I loved them. They're damn good. Now I wish I could actually eat 'em.
posted by miss lynnster at 3:52 PM on August 17, 2007

Hey, it's your story but if I wanted to be taken to the hospital I'd pursue something more deterministic than trying to induce/fake an illness.

Knife cuts would do it. Especially if she had others in various stages of healing/scaring. It would get her instant protection at the hospital and the man in handcuffs pronto.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:10 PM on August 17, 2007

I agree with having her trigger allergies. I get bronchitis every time I get a sinus infection. Without fail...
posted by at 4:11 PM on August 17, 2007

The chlorine gas thing produces pneumonia, not bronchitis. Serious stuff, and easy to kill yourself.

I'm a non-bitchy ex-smoker, and while secondhand smoke never bothers me, the two times I "fell off the wagon" in the late nineties when I was first trying to quit, resulted in sore throat and hoarseness in a day and bronchitis in three. That's why I've not smoked since.
posted by willconsult4food at 4:44 PM on August 17, 2007

Lauren Bacall developed a husky voice for "To Have and to Have Not" by screaming and yelling into a fan. I believe that smoking a lot of cigarettes helped with this as well.
posted by pluckysparrow at 4:50 PM on August 17, 2007

Smoke half-a-dozen Marlboro Reds.
posted by limeonaire at 5:31 PM on August 17, 2007

My mother intentionally gave herself pneumonia as a teenager by putting Vick's VaporRub on her chest and sitting outside in not-warm clothing in the winter. when she already had a slight cold (She was trying to get out of taking an exam.) She ended up in the hospital.
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:54 PM on August 17, 2007

The chlorine gas thing produces pneumonia, not bronchitis.

I would think -- and a bit of googling seems to support my thinking -- that chlorine could induce either bronchitis or pneumonia, depending on how far the gas made it into your lungs, and in what concentration.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:58 PM on August 17, 2007

Well, you could also combine chlorine with an allergy. I know of someone who had a serious reaction while cleaning their pool.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:24 PM on August 17, 2007

Have her wash her hair (or just get it wet) and take a long, fast walk outside in the winter while not wearing a coat. It worked for me (the walk wasn't planned nor was the resultant bronchitis).
posted by deborah at 10:05 PM on August 17, 2007

She can have mine.
posted by rcavett at 10:46 PM on August 17, 2007

I once got myself sick overnight by accident. I used saline nose drops right before going to bed, and they made my nose run. Then I went to sleep lying on my back. Post-nasal drip took over, and my throat was sore by the time I woke up.
posted by nadise at 11:08 PM on August 17, 2007

This might fit into your story somehow...I got bronchitis after I used a floor sander to sand the old varnish off of a floor (the house was built in the early 1900's--I have no idea what was on that floor). I didn't use any breathing protection and ended up with a nasty case of bronchitis. It went away with antibiotics pretty quickly..but something that she does with a lot of dust and mold could produce what you are looking for. She could clean the attic or basement and end up with it.
posted by dking at 12:42 AM on August 18, 2007

In medical usage pneumonia usually means infectious pneumonia.

Pneumonitis or bronchitis means inflammation of the pneumons or the bronchs, which is to say, the lungs or the airways in the lungs. These usually have an infectious component, but not always. If they are caused by chemicals instead you'd tack on the word 'chemical' to be clear about the cause. There's not really a difference between acute chemical pneumonitis and acute chemical bronchitis.

Also, mixing chlorine bleach and ammonia produces chloramines as well as chlorine gas. Chloramines are if anything even more irritating to the airways than pure chlorine.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:10 AM on August 18, 2007

Thanks everyone - great answers! Got all the info I need to construct the "medical escape" plot point. :-)
posted by angry.polymath at 10:04 AM on August 18, 2007

A while back I was shellacking the floor here (with real shellac, not modern floor finish). Shellac has an alcohol base. The fumes (I didn't wear a face mask) gave me acute chemical pneumonitis. I do have asthma which probably contributed to it. So something like this could do the trick.
posted by litlnemo at 1:24 AM on August 20, 2007

« Older Legit I-95 Philly-Balto travel advisories sought   |   Pull a single blog post from one of my blogs into... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.