Man with suspected lung cancer just had a dry nose

A man who presented at a hospital with symptoms similar to lung cancer had actually developed serious chest issues after using petroleum jelly on his dry nose.

An academic article outlines how the 53-year-old man presented at the respiratory department at University Hospital Limerick.

He had received multiple courses of oral antibiotics for suspected pneumonia, “with no significant improvement”.

He also had difficulty breathing and was coughing blood, with a physical examination showing reduced air entry on his right-hand side.

A chest x-ray showed consolidation in the right middle lobe in the right lung, with a high clinical suspicion of malignancy.

When the patient was re-interviewed, the medics asked specifically about over-the-counter drug use.

“The patient described the frequent application of petroleum jelly to his nostrils, in an attempt to relieve the ongoing symptoms of nasal dryness,” said doctors.

The man was advised to stop doing this and a check, three months later, showed “marked improvement”.

The authors of the article said it showed the importance of taking a thorough patient history.

According to the report: “The frequent application of petroleum jelly to his nostrils, to alleviate the dryness, resulted in the gradual aspiration of the oily substance and lipid accumulation within the right interstitial lung tissue.”

The article, by medics at the Department in UHL and the University of Limerick, is entitled ‘An Unusual Case of Recurrent Chest Infections’ and was published in a journal of respiratory medicine case reports.

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