Hand Sanitizer and Asthma

  1. 0
    I am a nurse of twenty-four years. I have worked in medical, pediatrics, NICU, and am now working in hemodialysis. I have recently developed workplace induced irritable larynx syndrome. When I am exposed to the hand sanitizer, even if someone uses it ten feet away I become wheezy, have a coughing fit and become very short of breath. This episode then seems to trigger my asthma and I remain short of breath for over a week following the exposure. I am trying to think of a place in nursing that I could work and not be exposed to the hand sanitizer. Does anyone have any ideas? To make it more complicated I can't go into people's homes that have cats. I am very allergic to them and go asthmatic instantly. Has anyone out there had this same issue with the hand sanitizer? I love nursing and would like to continue with it but as you see I face a bit of a dilemma! Thanks for your help
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  4. 11 Comments so far...

  5. 0
    That sounds a bit odd. I'm loaded with allergies, including cats and pretty much anything else that is considered a common allergen. But alcohol gel has never bothered me, other than really dry/irritated skin esp this time of the year. I wonder if it is the odor of the gel and not necessarily an irritant in the gel that is causing your problems? IE, the opposite of aromatherapy, your brain is reacting negatively to that smell for some reason? I know sometimes a really foul odor like from an ostomy bag will make me dizzy, nauseous, and want to cough, but it's a mental thing more so than like an allergic reaction. Just offering some ideas.
  6. 1
    Does this only happen with the one particular brand of sanitizer used at your job? If so, would management be willing to change brands to something unscented?
    merlee likes this.
  7. 0
    Unfortunately I have reacted to every hand sanitizer I have met. Thanks for your response.
  8. 0
    Maybe school nursing and just use soap and water?
  9. 0
    Seems like most patient care areas have sanitizer somewhere. Only place I could think of where you would likely be ok would be telephone triage/insurance nursing where you would not see patients face to face.
  10. 1
    The same thing happens to me when I use or someone near me uses hand sanitizer too!

    And it isn't any better in nursing education if you are at a clinical site where the students use it. (Because I work part time as a nurse educator in addition to my staff nurse position.)

    BTW, I know 4 nurses at our hospital with the same problem. One has become so sensitive that she was off on several leaves. Her pulmonologist put her off for a year, she came back and within a few minutes was back in ER. She was off again for a year and came in to visit a severly ill family member and ended up back in ER. Her pulmonologist says she can never work as a nurse again.

    Makes you wonder about our repeated exposures to some of these things.
    LovebugLPN likes this.
  11. 1
    There are many non-clincal areas and non-hospital based positions that have almost no hand sanatizer use, mostly soap and water after handeling paperwork:

    Medical Records, telephone triage, Quality Improvement/Utilization review, home heatth intake, patient access departments, insurance case management etc off the top of my head.
    BluegrassRN likes this.
  12. 0
    Quote from NRSKarenRN
    There are many non-clincal areas and non-hospital based positions that have almost no hand sanatizer use, mostly soap and water after handeling paperwork:

    Medical Records, telephone triage, Quality Improvement/Utilization review, home heatth intake, patient access departments, insurance case management etc off the top of my head.
    there would have to be proscritions on the rest of the staff from supplying/using their own.....
    and, actually we (nursing) got along really well before it was invented!
  13. 0
    It doesn't get to me as bad as it does you, but hand sanitizer bothers me as well. I would actually prefer to go back to the good ol soap and water. I think hand sanitizer is over-used and not as great as what people seem to think.
    I have a horrible time with cigarette smoke. I was a smoker for about 10 years or so and since I have quit I have horrible wheezing attacks anytime I'm around smoke or even just the smell from clothing. I hate it when patients come in a smell of smoke, can't really say anything to them, but I suffer from it for a good couple of days.


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