My Encounter With Second-hand Smoke

For the past week, I have been sick. It doesn’t help that I watch children and through what they call fun, I was the victim of spit on my face.

The point is, I have had this progressive cough since I moved to Colorado. It has gotten worse this past week. I assumed it was because of “fun time with kids”, but now I’m not so sure. My friend is a RN and she says it may be allergies. My mother, who is also a nurse, says the same thing. Well, with a little research, I found that while Denver is one of the ‘allergy capitols’, it doesn’t compare to other states. This doesn’t mean that I’m not allergic to the cottonwood here, but it’s nothing a pill can’t fix.

I, however, have come up with my own self-diagnosis. I moved from Key West, Florida. While there, I worked in a bar. I inhaled more than my share of second-hand smoke. Before Key West, I lived to St. Louis. I worked in a bar there too, but only for a few months. Before my move to St. Louis, I lived on the opposite side of Missouri and where did I work?… You guessed it, a bar. While I wasn’t working at that bar, I was traveling to Key West and working in another bar. 3 years before that, I worked in many other bars, filled with smoke. Are you coughing yet?

Do we sense a theme here? For 10 years, I have breathed in second-hand smoke. It has been 3 years since I have worked in a bar. It is a line of work that someone else can deal with. I am done. As for my lungs, it is my opinion that they are just now recovering. When I moved to Colorado, I picked up this strange urge to start running. I have always liked to run, but I was never really good at it. The change in altitude really effected my breathing. Walking was extremely hard to accomplish. Sam, my dog, was with me at the time and he seemed to take to the change quite well. In Key West he had a very hard time walking 10 minutes. In Colorado he had a hard time not walking 10 minutes. He really helped me push myself to walk just a bit further.

I started working for a canvasing non-profit organization and walked everywhere. I started getting a cough. It wasn’t enough to alarm me so, I didn’t pay it any mind. I met my new boss after quitting that job and she is a runner. I told her how I wanted to run a 5k. She suggested that I run more than that. Why not 13 miles? Geez lady, I can barely walk 5 miles without having severe breathing problems. Although I had some issues, it really didn’t take much convincing for me and a year later I ran my first half-marathon. The coughing got worse.

It really started becoming noticeable after a run and when I lied down at night. It’s a deep cough that sounds congested. My grandpa used to smoke; he died from it. My sister smokes. I have obviously been around plenty of smokers. My cough sounded as if I had(did) smoke 2 or more packs of cigarettes a day for the last 15 years. It is now, during this week, that the cough is all day and worse. The up side, I guess, is that I feel fine. I have no sinus problems, fever, nausea, or anything that resembles a cold. It’s just this nasty cough.

I ran today and the cough was a little more persistent, but I feel really good right now. I could run a few more miles.

So is it allergies, a lower respiratory infection, or my body trying to make itself right? I hope it the last of the three. I have moved to a place where exercising is encouraged by numerous bike paths, glorious mountains to hike, trails to run, slopes to ski, and lakes to swim.

Perhaps my body is trying to get rid of 10+ years of second-hand smoke.

I actually have a huge bias against smokers. I could go on all day about how disgusting it is, what it does to your body, and how beautiful you look while beating that pack against your hand. *note the sarcasm* However, as of now, I feel like one of them, without ever have putting one to my mouth. (Except that one time in Germany) 😉

I found this article about second-hand smoke or SHS, as this article from the American Cancer Society calls it. Interesting stuff. I feel like I let a thousand people slowly murder me. Every time they asked if they could smoke around me was followed by a yes. I don’t mind if you fill my body with cancer causing agents, poison, and toxic fumes. However, I am here. Many years later and my body is trying to push out these toxins.

I hope it continues. I hate the cough, but if healthier lungs is the outcome, so be it. A doctor visit is in order – just in case. But if this cough continues and I am still able to run, walk, hike, swim or whatever else I want, than so be that too. Bring on the next half-marathon. Bring on the full-marathon. Bring on life and the things my body is trying to do to protect it.

Without sounding to ‘motherly’, I want to make people aware of what second-hand smoke can do to your innocent by-standers. I may not have a second-hand smoke problem. I may actually have allergies or bronchitis. I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. However, the evidence is there. If you smoke and are in a room with others, go outside. If you are in a bar and smoke, stay where you are. I knew for those many years what would happen if I kept breathing in toxins. Hell, I even told people it was okay to light up around me. I could have quit at any time, but the money was too good. (I kinda sounded like an addict in those last few words)

This is my post to help spread the word. Second-hand smoke can kill. If it doesn’t, the effects can sure be annoying.

Here are some picture that help visualize what I breathed in for so many years. The others I thought were entertaining. Thank you for reading. I’ll keep an update when I go to the doctors. If anyone would like to comment or have your own diagnosis, leave a comment. I’d be curious to hear your opinion.

English: This photo illustrates smoke in a pub...
English: This photo illustrates smoke in a pub, a common complaint for those concerned with passive smoking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


11:00 A. M . Monday, May 9th, 1910. Newsies at...
11:00 A. M . Monday, May 9th, 1910. Newsies at Skeeter’s Branch, Jefferson near Franklin. They were all smoking. Location: St. Louis, Missouri. Photograph by Lewis Wickes Hine, 9 May 1910. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Marlboro Cigarettes
Marlboro Cigarettes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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