View Full Version : Anyone else get a headache while reloading?

Mike Irwin
January 4, 2001, 01:47 AM
I've notice that as I get older, I'm getting headaches while reloading. I'm presuming this to be from the acetone & nitroglycerine smells coming from the powder.

Nitro fumes, especially, can cause blinding headaches (Dynamite headaches, a term coined by the workers in dynamite factories).

They're exactly the kind of headaches that people who have been given nitroglycerine for chest pains have described to me.

Anyone else notice this?

January 4, 2001, 02:30 AM
Mike are you sure its the powder. Perhaps it has something to do with where you reload. Did you recarpet the room recently. Formaldahyde in new carpets will give some people headaches. Are you using a space heater? Could be carbonmonoxide. What you smell from the powder is ether and if you keep the lid on and or have decent ventilation it should not be a problem. You should look somewhere else for the problem. New paint job. You get the idea.

January 4, 2001, 06:02 AM
Mike, maybe you're just not looking forward to all that reloading as you get older.;)

Bud Helms
January 4, 2001, 06:15 AM
45King may be on to something. I quit getting headaches as soon as I got my 550 ... :D:D

Steve Smith
January 4, 2001, 11:07 AM
Mike, I had an uncle that was a dynamiter. He talked about the headaches, and he said that everybody started drinking milk before and during activity and is kept them from getting the headaches. Worth a try. If it doesn't work, then get a Dillon.

January 4, 2001, 11:27 AM
The nitro fumes are a vaso-dilator. That it, they increase the blood flow by "relaxing" the vessels. That's also the alcohol-hangover headache, fwiw. Dunno if milk is a vaso-constrictor, but I never discount the home remedies I hear.

Mike Irwin
January 4, 2001, 11:37 AM

Nope, no new carpet, no space heater. I reload in the back room in my basement. Concrete floor and a heat pump. No new paint job, either. I've noticed it to a lesser degree in years past when I was living in Pennsylvania and reloading in a totally different situation.

I had thought that it was just neck & shoulder tension from working the press, but it's not a tension headache. I'm very familiar with those.

I'm thinking that the ventilation is part of the problem. The basement is particularly well ventilated in the area where I reload. I guess it's time to cut a vent into the ductwork nearer the reloading area.

January 4, 2001, 12:18 PM
This may sound dumb, but drink half a quart or more of water when you have a headache and wait 15 minutes. I bet it disappears.


January 4, 2001, 12:43 PM
I had one of those dynamite headaches once. Disabling.

Mal H
January 4, 2001, 01:06 PM
I know all about nitro headaches - no fun. But I seriously doubt you are getting one from smokeless powder.

What you might also consider is eyestrain. Most of the reloading process is done at short distances and odd tilt angles of the head. Both of those factors can cause headaches.

Mike Irwin
January 4, 2001, 01:16 PM

Nope, not an eyestrain headache, either. I know the symptoms of those, as well, from reading constantly and being chained to my computer.

I'm thinking it HAS to be fumes from the powder.

Mike Irwin
January 4, 2001, 01:25 PM

If I drink any more water, I won't be able to reload because I'll be in the can constantly. :)

I'm doing the weight watchers routine, and I'm drinking enough water to sink a destroyer right now.

At least I know I'm going to have clean kidneys!

Mal H
January 4, 2001, 01:36 PM
Mike, let's assume it is the fumes. Now you have to figure out a way to prevent it. If you're near a basement window, how about a small exhaust fan - one that will cause a very slight air flow away from your bench. You don't want a fan blowing on the bench because even a slight breeze can foul up your powder weighing.

Maybe you could rig up a hood over the area where you work with the powder. I have in my mind a very cheap hood made of 2X4's and a sheet of plate glass with a very small electronics cooling fan like you can get for a few bucks at Radio Shack vented to the outside.

Mike Irwin
January 4, 2001, 02:08 PM
Yeah, increased ventilation is the answer.

I'm also thinking, though, that moving the reloading setup from where it is (sort of in a nook) into a more open area of the basement might be a good idea, as well. That way there would be better chance of any fumes dissipating.

January 4, 2001, 06:39 PM
Mike, it could be the powder if its a double based powder. But I can't see how the little fumes that you would inhale could cause it. I do know that when my doc put me on Ismo(a vaso dialator)some years back I got some pretty good headthumpers from it, but one or two Tylenol would knock it out. Later when I switched from the Ismo to a generic drug of the same type, the headaches returned for a few days. The paperwork with both of these prescriptions was correct in that it would cause a headache for a week or so when first using the medecine then go away. It was correct they did. I guess nitro would affect all persons differently but in my thinking taking a prescription of it would give a bigger dose than any you may inhale at the loading bench, and even those headaches are not really that bad, but all things are possible.

January 4, 2001, 08:57 PM
Don't laugh,but....
Is your stool too high? I have a history of back problems most of which came from a sky diving accident. Lucky I'm still reloading! In my case, most everthing I do requires some thought as to posture in doing it. If I don't keep my back nearly straight it results in fatigue and headaches. You're probably too smart to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and don't have my problems but the basic idea is universal.....keep that bow out of your back! If you feel your gut hanging on your belt buckle, throw your shoulders back. This is uncomfortable so use a pillow behind your lower back and tilt your eyes (not your head) down toward your work. It will seem uncomfortable at first but it may help the headaches.....can't hurt to try.

Mike Irwin
January 4, 2001, 10:54 PM

I've got a crappy back, but I don't sit when I reload, I stand. I've always found that to be more comfortable.

And, again, it's a MUCH different feel than a muscle tension headache. It's being caused by some sort of fumes. I get the same kind of headache from nitrous oxide at the dentist. It feels like it's INSIDE my head, whereas my tension headaches feel like they're sitting on top of my scalp.


I'm certain it's being caused by fumes of some sort, and it's almost a guarantee that I'm going to get one when I'm reloading now.

January 5, 2001, 12:19 AM
You might try rigging a small fan and some cardboard to make a thin curtain of moving air between you and the powder. If that helps, then do some serious vent changing.

You may have developed an allergy to some ingredient in the powder. As we get older some old friends start to bite us.

Case lube?

Good luck finding the solution.....Sam

Mike Irwin
January 5, 2001, 02:01 AM

Hadn't thought about the allergy. That's an interesting thought.

I've had allergies all of my life.

Hay fever, milk, eggs. I'll outgrow an old one and develop a new one.

When I was 14 or 15 I ate a brownie with walnuts. I had eaten the same damned thing a couple of weeks earlier with no problems.

This time the walnuts nearly killed me. No other nuts, just walnuts.

I now carry an epi-pen with me just in case I tie into some walnuts.

I don't use case lube, as I've been reloading pistol brass with carbide dies for years.

Oh, and no, I don't tumble my brass, so there's no walnut hull media around.

January 5, 2001, 06:17 AM
I used to work for a safety equipment company, and there are numerous comapanies which sell respirators and filter cartridges for various gases and fumes. If there's a safety equipment company in your area, give 'em a call and tell 'em the problem. They should be able to recommend the proper filter cartridges for a half-mask respirator. Some good brands: Willson, American Optical, US Safety. I personally prefer the AO. I have their half-mask resp. and their full-face resp. Half-mask had a kind of "cradle" suspension/headgear to hold it on your head, and only covers the nose/mouth area. Full-face covers the face completely, with a view port, usually a clear polycarb. I don't recommend one of these except in an extreme situation where the fumes are so bad they will also affect eyes.
Be forewarned: if you sport a beard and/or mustache, or have an usual sized or shaped head, fitting might be a problem. Either style has to completely seal against the face to be effective. Test it by donning one, then put your palms flat over the intakes and try to inhale. If you can't inhale and the mask sucks tight to your face, you've got a good fit.
Good luck.

January 5, 2001, 08:17 AM
After reading all of the questions,answers and remarks, I have deduced the problem.

You are getting OLD! :)

January 5, 2001, 09:19 AM
I get headaches when I'm NOT in my shop (wife, kids, bills, junky cars, snow OVER my a$$, taxes, BATF, etc...)

I am surrounded by powder, primers, ammo-manufacturing debris. I like it. (If powder could give one a headache my head would have completely exploded years ago.)

January 5, 2001, 09:20 AM
Maybe I'm not normal?

January 5, 2001, 10:04 AM
"Maybe I'm not normal?" NOW you're catching on. :):)
Respectfully, Jerry

Hot Core
January 5, 2001, 10:21 AM
Hey Mike, Don't have any idea at all as to what could be causing "your" headaches. But, when I saw WESHOOT2s post, it reminded me that I used to have a whole bunch of headaches too. Similar to his method, actually going in the Reloading Room, "closing the door", turning the radio to some "oldies"(HA still good to me) and loading a few ALWAYS helped eliminate the cause of my headaches.

Now I'm not married and I don't have any headaches at all!

Good hunting and clean 1-shot kills, Hot Core

January 5, 2001, 11:13 AM
I know about getting rid of headaches. If you look at the top left of this picture of my reloading room/bench that silver thing is an antenna, that antenna is connected to a TV. That TV receives only NFL, MLB, LSU College Football, or LSU College Baseball. In fact the remote for said TV can be seen on the corner of the bench(bottom right of pic). That brown item that the TV is sitting on is a refrigerator. That refrigerator is filled with certain canned/bottled items. Too many of said canned items WILL give you a headache the next morning, and you certainly do NOT want to use these canned/bottled items while shooting or reloading, but to "get away", and relax, that is how I do it, that is if I do not want to hook up my boat and spend the day in the Atchafalaya River Basin!
Oh! I forgot to add that that chair is for reloading, in front of it and out of the picture is the easy chair/rocker/recliner that is for the TV and beer!


Mike Irwin
January 5, 2001, 03:02 PM
Holy hell, that is ONE BEAUTIFUL reloading room, Carlyle!

You must have just cleaned it up, and found some black powder loaded .38 Special cartridges.... :)

Steve Smith
January 5, 2001, 06:17 PM
Southla, please tell me you aren't using the headache-inducing bottled beverages while operating the green metal thing bolted to the bench!

January 5, 2001, 07:21 PM
Oh no Steve those canned/bottled items are for football not loading! :)

January 5, 2001, 07:26 PM
Thanks Mike! Yes its amazing what one finds when its neat and in order! .38 Special boxes included! Guys mine is not usually that neat :D. Actually I took the pic about 4 days ago with our new digital camera, but the credit on how to post it goes to HankL from the Art of the Rifle. Since then seeing that the weather has been kind of cold for this Cajun I moved the deer head and shoulder mount and made 2 shelves where it was. Kinda gives an openess to it helps keep things neat!

JD HHI 6092
January 6, 2001, 02:21 AM
If you have florescent lighting that might be the problem.. I know some people some people get sensitive to that kind of lighting.

Keith J
January 6, 2001, 01:37 PM
Florescent lighting flashes in response to the AC feeding it. Some lights are phase balanced multiple bulbs but it still can give a headache.

I see you are a Cajun. Could it be the chickory coffee? Or lack thereof? I'm working on a thumper now since I was late in rising and missed my morning java.

Mike Irwin
January 6, 2001, 02:47 PM
HEY! Fluorescent lighting... Now THAT could be a possibility. But, again, it just doesn't feel like that kind of headache.

Still, I'm going to get the area better ventilated, and I'm going to put new bulbs into the fluorescent fixtures I've got above the bench. I've heard that as bulbs age, the flickering can get subtly worse before you're really able to notice it.


Cajun? Nope, not I. I'm a Pennsylvanian who has been transplanted to Virginia.

I drink a LOT of coffee, but none of that foul chickory stuff.

January 7, 2001, 09:11 AM
Hey Carlyle, If ya got a few free months maybe you could come up and organize my reloading room. I have it organized now to the point there is a small footpath leading back to the presses. Actually if I shot off several thousand rounds I'b be in better shape. Hate to see it just auctioned off down the road. Thinking of that gives me a headache too.

January 7, 2001, 04:36 PM
Mike those bulbs will age. I have some over the loading bench and even though I did not notice a flickering I did notice that they were getting kind of dim, so the next trip to Lowes I bought some new ones and the difference was like night and day. I also changed those under the carport and man what a difference. Now I am going to change that little 2 foot one right on the bench to lighten that up. I don't know if its the headache problem but its worth a try.

January 7, 2001, 04:43 PM
mcshot, it took me months just to get mine straight! Found all kinds of stuff I forgot I stole errrr "acquired" over the years :D. I don't have to worry about my stuff getting auctioned off though I have 2 son-in-laws that I have to wipe up after when they visit cause they drool over everything, plus a BROTHER IN LAW THAT DOES THE SAME! (of course I drool over brother-in-laws Springfield Armory National Match M1A, so I guess we are even!)

January 8, 2001, 01:16 PM
Nuther thought.

Do you have rug/carpet in the reloading area? If so, where did it come from. Could be having a reaction from sumpin in it. Dog, cat, cigarett smoke etc etc.


Mike Irwin
January 9, 2001, 04:42 PM

the only carpet in the reloading area is a square of rubberbacked that I stand on to take some of the pressure off from the concrete.

It's been down there for years.

January 9, 2001, 05:19 PM
Mike, saw your post about your Weight Watchers diet in another forum.

I tried losing weight on the Slim-Fast diet a couple years ago--never lost any weight but was never hungry either -- drank ten to twelve cans of Slim-Fast a day.

RE: headaches -- try to find an industrial hygienist (CIH=certified industrial hygienist) in your area and consult with him/her. Unless you have developed hypersensitivity to an ingredient in the powder I can't think of anything in smokeless powder which would cause your headaches.

Luck--on the aches and the diet.

Walt Welch
January 10, 2001, 03:44 AM
Your headaches may well be from the volatile solvents used in compounding the smokeless powder.

They are not from nitroglycerin or nitrocellulose however. These compounds are not volatile when absorbed onto a matrix, as they are in smokeless powder.

The headaches from munitions workers were termed 'Monday morning headaches,' as they tended to occur when workers returned from the weekend, during which they had not been exposed to nitrates. They quickly became tolerant of the nitrates, so the headaches went away. Liquid nitroglycerin was used in dymamite manufacturers; it is absorbed onto diatomatious earth so that the product is not sensitive to shock. The liquid NTG is volatile, and would affect the workers. Similar problem in munitions plants, where nitric acid and cotton were combined to form nitrocellulose; during the process, some nitrates are volatile.

You need to get your reloading area ventilated, but your problem is from the solvents, not the NTG or nitrocellulose.

Walter Welch MD

Master Blaster
January 10, 2001, 08:22 AM
As a wood worker I have head about cases where other wood workers have suddenly developed severe allergic reactions to sawdust after years of woodworking with the same wood and no problems. The sensitivity builds without warning.
you may want to do an allergy test away from you shop.
Bring some powder out of the shop and spend time sniffing it to see if you develop the headache, out side of the reloading area.

January 11, 2001, 10:18 AM

Since we are talking about ventilation I thought I would share something my friend did in his basement.

He has a complete work shop in his basement where he does reloading, smithing, & other projects. Because he wanted some really good ventilation this is what he did.

Directly above his bench he installed a ceiling fan vented to the outside just like the ones found in your bathroom. He then attached to the fan above the bench about a 6' piece of 3" flex hose like the stuff you get from the auto parts store. The hose then hangs down to the left of the bench but directly next to it. So when he is working with solvents and such it will help suck out the fumes.

I hope I explained it good enough because it is a really good idea and works great.

Mike Irwin
January 11, 2001, 11:32 AM

I know exactly what you're talking about. I've installed a couple of ceiling fans like that in bathrooms. I could easily trunk such a fan right into the dryer vent, which is nearby.

January 11, 2001, 04:58 PM
Dryer vent???,,,,,,,I am reactive to fabric softener sheets. Just nuther thought.


Mike Irwin
January 11, 2001, 05:44 PM

It's not the dryer sheets, I know that.

I keep dryer sheets in my dresser drawers and in the linen cabinet to keep everything smelling nice & fresh.