Last summer in June, I was painting my dad's big office mailbox with wood stain paint. I was exposed to the paint and the fumes for quite some time, but to lessen the smell of the fumes, I painted the mailbox outside.
A few hours after I finished painting, the smell of the wood stain paint still lingered. I figured that it was on my clothes or there were a few fumes that got inside the house, so I shrugged it off.
A week later, the smell persisted, and it seemed as if I was exhaling the fumes rather than smelling them. At first I thought it was my nostrils that still had fume residue, so I thoroughly cleaned them with Q-tips. It helped a bit, but the next day, the exhalation of the fumes returned.
The subtle taste of the fumes had been strong on the back of my tongue, so I figured that the residue must have been on my tongue, so I thoroughly cleaned my tongue with a tongue cleaner and mouth wash. It seemed to do the trick for a while, but a few hours later, the fumes returned, so that ruled out the possibility that my tongue was the cause of my strange fume exhalations.
This has been going on ever since I painted that mailbox. The intensity of the fumes when I exhale have diminished, but when I laugh or do something that involves a lot of exhalation, I find that I exhale the fumes as well.
I'm not sure what's going on, and whether or not the fumes have somehow lined my lungs or not. What should I do?
(Note: I don't live with my father, and the fumes from the mailbox have gone)
It is possible, but unlikely after the passage of so much time, that some residue of the inhaled paint remains in some part of your respiratory tract. The most likely place for persistence of this material would be your lungs but I find it surprising that it should linger in your lungs that long.
What you have experienced could just be a nuisance that eventually will spontaneously resolve. Your description suggests that that is what has been happening. My concern is that some part of the inhaled paint has precipitated an inflammatory response in your lung tissue, with the potential to cause lung damage.
I suggest that you discuss this with your doctor, have your lungs examined and have a chest X-ray done. An easily performed breathing test, simple Spirometry, could also provide information on obstruction to airflow, associated with the toxic inhalation, akin to asthma. Your doctor may also want to consider requesting a second opinion from a lung specialist (Pulmonologist), especially if there is any abnormality on physical exam of your lungs, Spirometry or X-ray.
Given the progressive improvement you describe, I strongly suspect that your symptom will eventually spontaneously resolve and that your lungs will not be permanently effected.
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