Holy Saturday asthma

BMJ Case Rep. 2014 Mar 13:2014:bcr2014203861. doi: 10.1136/bcr-2014-203861.


A 61-year-old man complained of cough and dyspnoea after exposure to colophony-containing solder fumes at work. A histamine challenge test confirmed airway hyper-responsiveness, and colophony-challenge demonstrated a 16.7% drop in peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR), supporting a diagnosis of colophony-induced occupational asthma. At review, the patient presented with cough, dyspnoea and wheeze that occurred acutely when exposed to the fumes from burning incense during Easter Saturday services, necessitating his departure from the church. Inhalation challenge tests using two blends of incense used at his church (Greek and Vatican) led to identical symptoms and a significant reduction in forced expiratory volume in 1 s 15 min after exposure and PEFRs up to 48 h after exposure, indicating an early and late phase asthmatic reaction. This is the first report of coexistent colophony and incense-induced asthma. The similarities in chemical structures between abietic acid in colophony and boswellic acid in incense suggest a common mechanism.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants, Occupational / adverse effects*
  • Asthma, Occupational / chemically induced
  • Asthma, Occupational / diagnosis*
  • Bronchial Provocation Tests
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Resins, Plant / adverse effects*


  • Air Pollutants, Occupational
  • Resins, Plant
  • rosin