E-Liquid Allergies: What You Need to Know
At this point, a large enough sampling of the evidence is in: vaping is considerably less dangerous than smoking. But while it's likely to carry some risks of its own, many long-term factors remain unknown and will stay that way for some time. For now, though, there are some things we do know about certain risk factors that may affect some individuals. Let's review these so that in case you're experiencing any irritation you can help determine whether or not your vape is playing a role.
Sweeteners – many vape liquids contain an artificial sweetener in addition to the propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and flavor extracts. The most common sweetener is derived from sucralose, which you may know by the trade name Splenda. While generally believed to be more benign than older artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose can alter insulin responses and blood sugar levels. If these are areas of concern for you, monitor your levels as compared to before you started vaping and adjust your e liquid choices as needed. The good news is that all-natural monkfruit extracts are being explored as a more effective (not to mention less coil-gunking) alternative to sucralose, and may in the future overtake other sweeteners in strong dessert vapes.
Nicotine – if you're a former tobacco user, you may be vaping liquids that contain nicotine. And as you'll likely recall from when you first started using tobacco, overdosing on nicotine is entirely unpleasant – so much so that most of us wonder why we ever kept using the product after getting "nic sick." It's important to keep an eye on your consumption – today's devices are much more efficient with nicotine delivery than older-generation pen-style vaporizers or the disposable-cartridge devices you can buy that are promoted by Big Tobacco at your local convenience store, so the amount of nicotine required per milliliter of juice to keep your tobacco cravings at bay is considerably lower. Keep this in mind, and if you ever begin to feel light-headed or woozy while vaping it's a good idea to stop immediately, go slow when you feel better, and immediately drop to a lower nicotine level if the feeling returns. 3-6 mg/ml is all it takes in most modern devices. See our earlier post on nicotine levels for more.
PG Sensitivity – As many as one in ten new vapers experiences some adverse reaction to propylene glycol, one of the two base liquids combined with nicotine and flavoring to form e liquid. Most often complaints revolve around sore throats and upper respiratory tract irritation from former smokers, as some of the chemical additives found in cigarettes but not in e liquids are designed to mask the harshness of a nicotine inhale.
More rare (about 1 in 5,000) are reports of dry skin, itchiness, or acne breakouts, and in even more extreme cases (1 in 100,000) users already suffering from tinnitus (a consistent ringing in the ears) will report a worsening condition after starting to vape.
Most users reporting the common sore throat after switching to vaping find that their irritation goes away with time, but for vapers with one of the more persistent conditions, a switch to liquids that rely heavily on vegetable glycerin as a base ingredient is recommended. Making the switch to 100% VG-based liquids is difficult, however, as the vast majority of flavor extract manufacturers suspend their flavoring in PG. Whenever possible, we include notes on the PG/VG content of our e liquids to help users select a blend best suited to their needs.
VG Sensitivity – Vapers reporting a problem with VG are much rarer - estimated at about 1 in 1,000. It's still unknown whether these users are sensitive to vegetable glycerin in general, or rather one of the common plants (usually palm or soy) used in extraction. Common complaints include a "heavy" feeling in the lungs when breathing after an extended aping session.
For vapers feeling a heaviness in the chest, we recommend trying liquids with a 50/50 PG/VG blend or higher. If any of these conditions persist in making your vaping experience unpleasant, please don't hesitate to contact your doctor.