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Asthma Airport Scare

Not too long ago while I was waiting in line at the TSA security checkpoint at the Chicago Midway airport, I almost had an asthma episode.

My smell sensitivity

I was placing my items in the bins that go through the x-ray machines when I smelled the tobacco odor that clung to the person’s clothes next to me in the line. I am extremely sensitive to tobacco smell. It is the number one trigger for me.

As soon as I smelled it, I felt my bronchial muscles constricting. I stepped to the back of the line and looked at the TSA agent in front of me. The TSA agent asked me right away “Ma’am, are you OK?”, which I answered (while looking at the smell wearer), “No, I have asthma, tobacco smell makes me very sick and my inhaler is going through the x-ray machine at this moment.”

Getting help

Fortunately, the TSA agent understood the severity of the situation and asked me to go first through the scanning device. I commend this TSA agent’s response. He saved my life that day!

I just wish and hope that smokers become conscientious of how detrimental to others’ health is carrying tobacco smell with you!

Tell your asthma story here.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • jenTMarinewife
    4 months ago

    Hello ,
    I had a allergy test and I’m highly allergic to tobacco smell as well and it’s a trigger for me to ! Unfortunately sometimes asthmatics like you and I are unable to escape the fumes and it smell of it ! As you probably assume my home most likely same as yours if a smoke free zone . I made all my friends n family who plan a visit to my home who do smoke to wear clothes that are free of smoke and wash hands when entering my house thus far everyone is very understanding and it has stopped no one from any visits –

    Best of luck to you – Jenny

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi JenTMarinewife, and thanks for joining in the conversation here. It sounds like you’ve set up perfect ‘ground rules’ to protect yourself in your own home. It’s so good to hear that all your visiting friends and family are honoring and respecting those rules as well. Keep up the good work! Leon (site moderator)

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi. WandaDonhamRRT-NPS. Glad you are willing to share your experience with this community. You are definitely not alone in experiencing a sensitivity to such smells. So glad to hear the TSA agent was so helpful. You also did a great job advocating for yourself too. 🙂 All the best. John. Site Moderator.

  • KitBreathes60
    4 months ago

    In response to Wanda Dunham, I too avoid cigarette or any other kind of smoke. Perfumes. Strong smelling herbs. Incense.

    My birth family just think I’m oversensitive. Two of them smoke. I had these sensitivities before I developed asthma a few years ago.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator
    4 months ago

    Hi. KitBreathes60. Thanks for sharing your personal experience with the community. There are many in this asthma community who are sensitive to strong smells and scents, such as you describe. There have even been stuies on it (chemical sensitivity). ( Do you think maybe you had asthma even before your diagnosis ?Just curious. John. Site Moderator.

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