I first learned about vaping at a very vulnerable time, right after I had relapsed from being smoke-free for a six month span. This was the longest amount of time I had ever quit in the seven years I’d been smoking, so my confidence in my ability to ever be a non-smoker had hit rock bottom.
Once I started vaping, though, I really felt like I had a chance. I rarely went anywhere without my little pen vape, just in case I needed to chase the cravings away. I was a full-time vaper, and I wasn’t looking back.
In the first month or so of vaping, I experienced something the vape community refers to as the “vape flu”. This included congestion, sore throat, headaches, and nausea, all of which was listed as common symptoms that would disappear once my body got accustomed to inhaling vapour instead of smoke. These reactions faded, and I couldn’t have been more happy with my decision to start vaping.
Fast forward to a year later. I’d just traded up to a sub-ohm device and was now getting more dense, flavourful vapour. It was incredible how different it was from my old vape pen. Then I started to feel those old symptoms come back. Mainly I noticed sinus pain, but this time it was followed by post-nasal drip and abnormally dry skin. I started to wonder whether my new vape was giving me the ‘vape flu’ all over again.
But by the end of the week, those issues disappeared and I felt great again! I started experimenting with new flavours and I was getting more involved in vape culture.
But then I got sick again. And again. And again. The strange thing was that it wasn’t constant. It was always on and off. I started to suspect that some of the flavourings of the e-liquid weren’t sitting well with me, so I did my own little home experiment. I vaped one flavour only per week to see which flavours were causing these issues. With this isolated method, I did find the e-liquids that were making me feel sick—tobacco, mint, fruit, dessert. It didn’t make sense. Was it a reaction to e-liquid in general? Because it only happened with some of the juices.
So I looked further into it. The ingredients of all of the e-liquids were generally the same, but the ratios of VG (vegetable glycerin) and PG (propylene glycol) were different. And the similarity between the ones that I got sick off of? All of them contained more than 50% PG.
I did a quick Google search about PG causing the problems I experienced, and I was surprised to find how many people were affected by it just like I was. Although PG can cause an allergic reaction, it didn’t seem that severe to me. So I came to the conclusion that I was PG sensitive.
What this means is that my body has a difficult time metabolizing propylene glycol, and so vaping large amounts of it causes me to feel ill. Knowing this, I now had to change the way that I vaped so that I could avoid those negative responses.
Here are some of the measures I took in order to prevent reactions.
1. No e-liquid with more than 30% PG
I started avoiding any e-liquid higher than a 30PG/70VG ratio. This was the lowest common denominator I found that worked for me. It might be different for you, so you’ll want to experiment a bit. I find Max VG e-liquids to be best at relieving me of those symptoms, but that’s not always best for all tank systems.
2. No mouth-to-lung tanks
Because I was using higher VG liquid, and VG is extremely thick, this meant that any time I used a smaller mouth-to-lung tank, my coil would dry up and I’d end up getting burnt hits. I started using sub-ohm tanks with larger cotton slots for faster absorption, and then graduated to RDAs and RDTAs.
3. Stuck with e-liquids I knew my body accepted
If I found an e-liquid that worked and made me feel good after vaping it for a few days, I stuck to it. I have a handful of great tasting, higher VG e-liquids that are quick go-tos when I don’t have time to investigate VG/PG ratios.
4. Started hydrating better
Even though I cut back my PG intake drastically, I still do notice that vaping dries me out a bit, both in my throat and on my skin. I’ve come to learn that PG is a humectant, which basically means that it is a moisture magnet and draws water out from your cells. This isn’t just for PG sensitive people, but for anyone.
The only real way to combat this completely is by taking care of your hydration: drinking LOTS of water, moisturizing your skin frequently, and using a humidifier. I found that once I started being more conscious of my water intake and hydrating my body, the PG symptoms became almost non-existent.
So if you’ve ever felt dry or a bit sick after vaping for a while, I suggest you take a look at your VG/PG ratios and adjust them until you find the right amounts that work for you. It’s made a world of difference in my vaping experience, and hopefully it will in yours too.