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cleaning products

Since an exascerbation of my asthma last year and diagnosis of bronchiecatis I've become even more sensitive to cleaning products. I can't use them at all at home. So use old fashioned techniques at home. White vinegar and lemon juice. But avoiding it at work is difficult at times. But domestic really good and chucks me out when mopping the room I'm working in. Damp dusting is done by nursing staff hot soapy water until recently, we having to use powerful smelling stuff which I have to go out of room for at least 20mins, and other staff have to clean for me. As I go in bronco spasm, which my lead nurse has seen, last year when we used it. Trouble is the unit stinks of stuff although not as strong as if I'm using it.

But it is affecting my breathing, I'm coughing more and I'm tight chested. I've been worse last few days, so much so I packed a bag for hospital just in case, felt that bad. Inhalers weren't making much of difference. But managed to calm down after two hours at home. But I know I have chest infection now, but I think this is result of how I react to cleaning products.

Surely this is health and safety issue? My lead nurse and modern matron are fully understanding, infection control not so, but I don't want a repeat of six off work like last year.

Do cleaning products affect anyone else?

15 Replies


try this place which i found through asthma UK asthmaandallergyfriendly.co...

i am allergic to sprays like furniture polish i think it may be something to do with the aerosol and actually anything that comes with a spray release tends to effect me.


Oven cleaner and furniture polish send me off and my work colleague who where the coco butter products . Tho must confess I love the smell and tolerate the hospital supply of lemon afresh airfreshner but this is famous for upsetting asthmatics....


I Aalso have to be careful around house hold cleaners and air freshners.

Never use to be like this,only the last 2 years.


I tend to avoid strong smelling cleaning products as much as possible. When I used to work in a lab (in the NHS) I found that the detergents were the worst along with things like methanol and phenol.

I think that I asked my consultant about whether you could force the Trust to change the cleaning products that they use - and he said you couldn't. (can't remember why) In addition to infection control have you tried speaking to occupational health or to the trust's health and safety manager. Perhaps you could ask whether a letter from your consultant would help. Do you know if the cleaning product is a known respiratory irritant?

Good luck - hope you can persuade them to at least try some other cleaners.


occ health

I tried to contact Occ health by phone and said they'd ring me back. Anyway I then decided to email the Occ health dr I saw last for my return to work. She told me I need to avoid the cleaning product which I try to but the smell is still hanging around unit. Basically the stuff we use is poor bleach!

She told me also to contact Health and Safety.

Also yesterday I happened to walk back into room after two nurses cleaned my spaces for me to see infection control there. So I happened to say how I react to the stuff. She seemed to think it was a joking matter. I relayed this story back to my lead nurse and modern matron. i did laugh at the time but actually its no joking matter. Not being able to breathe when you go into brocho spasm. She asked how I made it up, so my answer I don't as I stay as far away as possible from it. Surely there:p other stuff we can use. That kills bugs but then keeps the staff and patients for matter alive! I have looked at the website someone suggested but cleaning products was still under construction! Someone at work said teetree but its expensive so won't use. Surely its not as expensive than me going off sick for 6 wks!


Hi, I realise this is a very old post and I have just started my own titled 'sodium hypochloride' I faced the same problems as you revcathffrog and my line manager and ward domestics are great but I am still exposed to the stuff despite policies in place. Infection control, health and safety and domestic supervisors have been very flippant about it until recently an exposure has lead to a hospital admission...employers are now very worried as the words 'negligence' had been mentioned. I understand all the 'reasonably practicable' wording but at the age of 30 medical retirement is a little extreme!!!! This exposure was due to a breach in policy and I am covered under the DDA but I don't know where to go from here. I don't want to leave acute nursing because my employers cant follow clear policies but I can't risk the fatal implications another exposure could have.

Any advice would be greatly accepted if anyone is still following this thread or would like to comment on my new post.


Hi jonro. I really don't know the answer but interestingly enough. Last time I was off sick in sept/oct on my return to wrk interview I was asked if it was due to chorl clean. If it had been they would have to fill a risk management incident form in. As it was a clear effect on my health. I would suggest you do that and put it as high as you resulted in hospital. Plus at the end of the day we all know that asthma is life threatening.

My concern is that if it effects us what does it do to patients who can't move away during cleaning. I care for sick babies who don't have a voice. You shouldn't have to be put at risk.

I understand wythenshawe hospital burns unit were doing research on using tea tree for cleaning. I still need to look into it. It must be publisee by now.

My other thing would be to say have you got unionn support?

Take care. Catherine


Thank you for replying Catherine.

I have had several risk assessments done over the last 5 years and my ward is supposed to be a 'safe area' as a result of this, but I've been exposed several times since then. I have full union support and they are following this up more closely now and over the last week several meetings have been held with Infection Control, health and safety, Occ Health, Ward Manager, Nursing Cheif Exec , Domestic Services Manager and the union. Despite the trust not following policy and endangering me they are talking about moving me from my acute admissions ward to a clinic!!!

Funny you should mention the issue of cleaning around patients as I was recently (again) a patient in a 6 bedded bay when they used the cleaning agent again, I had to be moved out of the room ASAP and treated in the treatment room which prolonged my stay by another 48hrs and increased all my meds! I was then moved to another ward into a side room which is were I should have been anyway, as this the only way to ensure I don't get exposed. I had asked to be moved for the previous 4 days and told them why but they insisted I was 'safe'. Now I won't go in unless I can be put in a sideroom as I am safer at home.

Caring for sick babies is something I would love to do but I don't think I could cope with the saddest cases, I admire nurses like you! I will just stick to my acute surgical admissions unit, when i'm fit! was off for 4 months, back for 2 weeks and now I'm off again because of this exposure. Gutted, I want to look after my patients, not the other way around!

I will see if I can see anything about the tea tree cleaning research, thank you for that information.

Stay well :) Jon


i too am a staff nurse. when i am well enough!! lol.

when i used to do bank shifts in my old job, we used sanicloth and the tablets u use to put in water to disinfect the floor for blood spoilklages etc (cant remember the name )

whenever they were used i had to leave the area as they would trigger me awful, so i used to feel like i was lazy as i couldnt do the cleaning!!

i am orite with the alcowipse for cleaning the hubs for ivabs etc and cleaning surfaces, iv trays etc and the other sanicloths, and in my new job they use diff things. new job new ways!!



Me too, tried e-clothes when on offer and they do work esp. with glass/steel. I avoid the cleaning aisles in supermarkets. Hate sprays too esp. NHS air fresheners, sorry Gussypoo find it awful. Also can't bear perfume depts.

It's awful where work are not acting properly, good luck. Snowygirl, is it actichlor tablets you mean (makes up an awful litre of chlorine fumes)? Asthma not severe & not affecting me at work in the same way ? not sure what's used.


It's actichlor we use now, prior to that it was Haz-Tab, no difference in fumes, it's still Sodium Hypochloride, add that to a bucket of steaming hot water & the intensity of the vapours is awfull! I would never endanger a patients life by not using it when policy dictates I.e. Blood/Body fluid spillage, I simply leave the area & a colleague uses the solution.

Where I work they throw in as many tablets as they see fit (despite instructions) & use it when they want because ""it smells clean"". My latest exposure at work, when used against policy resulted in a 4 day hospitalisation & my employers are trying to avoid blame.

I avoid cleaning ailses & perfume shops too, air freshners & scented candles! Can't use indoor swimming pools or clean the house, girlfriend does that while I'm out, every cloud!

Alcowipes, alco hand gels don't seem to effect me either so that's a good thing or I think work would become impossible.


JR's post has reminded me. Staff are not allowed to put chlor clean which in effect is bleach like the rest into an open bowl of got water. The solution is made in a containerbottle and staff put onto cloth from there and clean. That changed as result of health and safety check. It improved things for me slighty as smell not as powerful. But domestic has to pour it down sings once a day. She is good and chucks me out off room. I still have to leave room when staff clean. Like you say you feel guilty that you can't clean but staff would rather do it than have to sort me out cause I can't breathe.

I have to clean at home as live on my own, but use white vinegar and lemon juice. Which works.

I have to be very careful of certain hand wash too. I've used one at church before now and struggled to breathe. The worst is dove. Perfume is also a problem. Getting changed at work is fun at times as people insist on spraying more smelly stuff on even though they put it on at home 30mins earlier. Can't wrk that one out.


Actichlor seems to be the trigger

I started work in the operating theatres of an NHS hospital just over a year ago. I take Seritide 250 2 times a day 2 puffs, Salbutamol PRN and Montelukast at night. I have noticed in July last year I was starting to take my Salbutamol more often. Since then had a few exacerbations and prescribed Prednisolone 40mg/day for 7days & antibiotics. Each time pulled round after steroid treatment. But was really puzzled as to why it kept happening. Went to the doctors on Thursday when I felt another episode coming on and got the usual steroids of the nurse practitioner (who to be fair is awesome and knows my history very well) anyhoo Wednesday came and by tea time I could hardly breathe so took emergency dose of steroids (as per my action plan) and 10 lots of Salbutamol with no effect. Just got out of hospital today (Sunday) after a trip to A&E and subsequent admission. Nebulisers, Magnesium & Steroids have slowly back to 75%ish peak flow.

In my time in hospital I have been trying to determine a trigger for these exacerbations. I do honestly think it is Actichlor we use at work. Some people ignore instructions and put 10 tabs in half a bucket of HOT water sometimes you can see the vapour coming from the bucket.

Also now I am thinking down the cleaning product type route bleach also makes me wheezy. But Actichlor seems to be nasty stuff.

As I say I only came out of hospital today and going to put all my thoughts to the asthma team that are coming out to see me this week as a follow up.

Just thought you may be interested or if you had any thoughts/suggestions (stay away from Actichlor) or similar stories.

Cheers James



I bought a steam cleaner a couple of weeks ago and used it for first time yesterday wow. Some of girls from work were talking about them ages ago and then I heard someone on the tram talking about how good they were. So after much thought and my recent attack i decided to get one. Mine had £20 off too! Anyway talk about clean, no products and its probably good for inhaling steam at same time. I used it in bathroom and my shower doors were in a state as not been able to clean for weeks. Wow what a difference already. Plus it took half the time. So would recomend one. I wonder if I could use it at work! ;-)


Jim just read your comment. You need to fill a risk management form in and contact health and safety officier, as they using product wrong for starters. Not only putting you at risk but themselves. No way should they be using 10tablets in an open container. No wonder you had an attack.


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