Allergic Reactions to E-liquids

We get quite a few customers who come to Kai's Virgin Vapor because they are experiencing allergic reactions when vaping.  The most common culprit is propylene glycol (PG), a commonly used base in e-liquids.  PG can cause allergic symptoms ranging from a scratchy throat to sinus problems, headaches, and even feelings of nausea.  In extreme cases, PG can even cause numbness in the face and tongue as well as swelling and redness in these areas. 

It is important to note that milder symptoms may not be coming from an allergic reaction at all.  Vaping is dehydrating and can dry out your sinus passageways, mouth and throat.  If you vape regularly, you may not be aware of just how much of a dehydrating effect vaping can have.  Try upping your H2O intake first to see if this simple fix can eliminate any mild symptoms.

For more severe symptoms, be certain to first assess if your symptoms are being caused by nicotine overdose.  Symptoms of nicotine overdose can include nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat and a general feeling of being unwell.  While rare when using standard nicotine strengths offered by most e-liquid manufacturers, nicotine overdose can be a very serious medical emergency, so it is important to be alert for signs and symptoms that may be coming from nicotine poisoning rather than a reaction to PG.  If you are using nicotine salts, which frequently contain much higher nicotine levels (25 to 50 mg versus 3 to 18 mg for standard nicotine formulations), you should be even more alert to this possibility. If you have any doubt, please consult your doctor.

If your symptoms are coming from a PG sensitivity however, you can easily avoid exposure by choosing only 100% vegetable glycerin (VG) based vape juice.  At Kai's Virgin Vapor, we offer all of our organic and natural e-liquid flavors in 100% VG, so we make it easy to avoid PG exposure.  Many other vendors also offer VG-based e-liquids, however, always be certain they are truly PG-free.  The vast majority of flavorings come in a base of PG, so even if the e-liquid is VG based, it may still contain PG added with the flavorings.  For people that are truly sensitive to PG, that can be more than enough to cause allergic symptoms.  Ask your e-liquid vendor if their flavorings come in a base of PG to be certain.

While perhaps 99% of allergic reactions are to PG, we have seen one or two cases where the reverse was true.  These people were actually allergic to vegetable glycerin (VG) and were only able to find relief by switching to a 100% PG e-liquid.  This is extremely rare in our experience, but it is worth noting just in case you fall into this category!

Allergic symptoms may also be caused by the flavorings themselves or other additives.  While flavorings used in e-liquids are approved for human consumption, they have not yet been specifically and extensively tested for safety when vaporized and inhaled.  In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, "the flavorings industry has estimated that over a thousand flavoring ingredients have the potential to be respiratory hazards due to possible volatility and irritant properties (alpha, beta-unsaturated aldehydes and ketones, aliphatic aldehydes, aliphatic carboxylic acids, aliphatic amines, and aliphatic aromatic thiols and sulfides)."  For this reason, if you are reacting to a particular e-liquid or a particular flavor, listen to your body and avoid it!

In addition, regular e-liquids may contain a wide variety of chemicals which can cause irritation or allergic symptoms when vaped.  Artificial colorings, artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners and other additives are all often present in regular e-liquids. Of particular concern are the acids used to impart a sour note used in sour pucker type flavors that many vape juice companies offer. Our research clearly indicates that these acids are irritants to the lungs and should be avoided.

None of these ingredients are present in Kai's Virgin Vapor's e-liquids.  We use only USDA certified organic and natural flavorings.  Our flavors do not contain any nuts, gluten, sugar or other added sweeteners.  They are also vegan (with the exception of our flavors that contain flavor extractions from honey).  Because our flavors are steam extracted and/or extracted in organic ethyl alcohol, there is no chemical residue left behind from the extraction process.  We also use the highest quality nicotine we could find, extracted in the United States from organically grown tobacco leaves.  Even our VG is certified organic and free of numerous common additives, adulterants and impurities. These methods produce a superior e-juice that can, because of its purity, significantly reduce potential irritation and allergies and we have had many vapers find relief from allergic symptoms by switching to our e-liquids.  When it comes to allergic reactions, quality definitely matters!

Remember, if you are experiencing allergic symptoms when vaping:

  1. Try upping your water intake to see if you are actually experiencing symptoms of dehydration.
  2. Try switching to a PG-free e-liquid.  Even if your e-liquid is advertised as 100% VG, make sure there is no PG added with the flavorings.
  3. Try switching to a different flavor in case a particular compound in the flavoring is irritating to your system.
  4. Try switching to a different vendor in case there is something in the VG or nicotine used by that particular vendor that doesn't agree with you.
  5. Look for high quality, high purity e-liquids.  Stay away from the cheap stuff and try to stick with e-liquid manufactured in the United States by a trusted vendor.

If your symptoms are severe or if the above tips and tricks don't offer relief, it is best to stop vaping and to go and see your doctor.


CDC website: