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Having dry cough, pain in back and chest. Could it be due to the smell of paint?

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Orthopaedic Surgeon
Practicing since : 1994
Answered : 10510 Questions
I'm having some back pain and a dry cough, and I'm worried it might be because they painted the elevator in my building with a spray and no ventilation at all. I live in Colombia, so safety standards don't exist. Two days ago when they started, the smell was so bad I sat on my balcony for an hour. I was more or less trapped, they didn't warn us they'd be spraying. I left the door to the balcony open, so there was ventilation, but they did not clean up the dust until two days later and, in fact, kept spraying the following day (I left the building when they did it yesterday and returned after they'd finished). The pain is under my right shoulder blade, and radiates around to my chest. I have had some back pain issues before, so I don't know if I'm being overly worried about this. However, recently my back had been fine.
Thu, 27 Dec 2012 in Asthma and Allergy
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 4 hours later
Thanks for posting your query.
The pain in your back and chest and near the scapula can be due to the bronchoconstriction caused by the spray painting. Most of the times, it causes an allergic spasm which is relieved spontaneously in 2-3 days.
You can self monitor your symptoms for a spontaneous improvement. Steam inhalation is sometimes helpful in opening up the airways.
In case the symptoms persist then antiallergics and steroid spray will be helpful. You can get these prescribed from your physician after an examination.
I hope this answers your query.
In case you have additional questions or doubts, you can forward them to me, and I shall be glad to help you out.
Please accept my answer in case you do not have further queries.
Wishing you good health.
Dr. Praveen Tayal.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having dry cough, pain in back and chest. Could it be due to the smell of paint? 30 hours later
Thanks for the response. I went to the doctor yesterday, and she listened to my chest and didn't hear anything suspicious. I've got a dry cough, still (4 days after), though, and the best way I can explain the feeling is that my throat is 'constricted', i.e., I have no problems taking a XXXXXXX breath (what she was listening for), but it still feels like there's something there, and when I breathe in, it feels like I have to make more of an effort than normal. I don't think this is psychosomatic - I'm not having trouble sleeping, and it seems neither better nor worse at any points of the day, though when I'm talking for a while (I'm a teacher), I cough more. Basically, it sounds like I have a smoker's cough, but I'm not a smoker, and I didn't have this 5 days ago. How long should I wait to see if this resolves?
Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 3 hours later
Thanks for writing again.
The symptoms you have are likely to be due to an allergic cough. Having cough lozenges and keeping the throat moist will be helpful.
Take plenty of fluids orally.
The problem should improve in next 5-7 days.
Hope my answer is helpful.
Do accept my answer in case there are no further queries.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having dry cough, pain in back and chest. Could it be due to the smell of paint? 27 hours later
Well, as I don't have allergies, and never have, and I got these symptoms after inhaling paint fumes, I don't know that I feel safe in saying that this is an allergic reaction. At any rate, the cough is better now, but I would like to know if it's possible to do lasting damage from one semi-sustained bout of inhalation of (lead-based) paint. I know that I am not going to die tomorrow from this, but I am concerned about what happened. There was a fine layer of dust on the floor in my apartment when the workers finished, which I did not notice until two days afterwards. I also don't imagine that there is much I can do about this right now, but I would like to know if it is worth going to a pulmonary specialist to find out.

Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 4 hours later
A single exposure to the paint fumes is not going to cause a lasting damage to your lungs. Still to calm your mind , after all your symptoms subside, you can get your pulmonary function tests done under the guidance of a pulmonologist.
Best regards.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Having dry cough, pain in back and chest. Could it be due to the smell of paint? 14 days later
Hello Again,

Sorry to bother you again, but I have now had a cough for three weeks. About two weeks ago, I went to another physician, who diagnosed me with bronchitis and prescribed an antibiotic and two types of inhalers. For a few days, the cough was so bad that I could not sleep. It has since subsided somewhat, but the course of antibiotics finished a few days ago and I am still coughing. There is no expectoration, but is 3 weeks a normal duration for an exposure-induced bronchitis? It seemed to be improving, but in the last five or so days it has definitely levelled off. I had a chest x-ray on Monday which was clear, but I'm concerned as to how long this should take to resolve. If I were in the US, I would just go to my doctor, but as I am in South XXXXXXX I'm somewhat skeptical of the care I'm receiving.

Thanks again

Answered by Dr. Praveen Tayal 38 minutes later
The cough caused by exposure induced bronchitis can sometimes persist for 6-8 weeks. Usually it can be taken care of by taking steroid inhalers, cough lozenges and keeping the throat moist. You can also use a humidifier in your room.
The treatment you have been given is correct. You can continue using the inhaler for an earlier relief.
Warm regards.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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