Polymer fume fever is a rare disease that arises due to inhalation of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) or Teflon(®) that is degraded during heating processes such as cooking or in the occupational setting. Signs and symptoms start several hours after exposure, most common being a flu-like illness with fever, chills, a sore throat, weakness, and dyspnea in severe cases. Spontaneous resolution within a few days is observed in the majority of cases. Data obtained during history taking is crucial to make the diagnosis.
Polymer fume fever is now considered to be a rare occurrence in clinical practice and was initially described as an occupational disease   . The pathogenesis involves inhalation of degraded polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon(®), either during various industrial heating processes (> 350°C) or during household cooking using Teflon-lined pans that release fumes containing this fluorocarbon   . The exact reason why signs and symptoms appear after inhalation of these fumes remains unclear, but it is assumed that a pro-inflammatory reaction in the lungs with subsequent formation of reactive oxygen species is the main mechanism . The clinical presentation usually starts several hours after inhalation of polytetrafluoroethylene and most reports suggest that a "flu-like" illness comprised of a dry cough, fever, chills, a sore throat, and even dyspnea is the main presenting feature     . Joint pain may also be reported . Spontaneous resolution of symptoms is noted within a few days and their complete absence during the weekend is observed in the setting of occupational exposure  . In rare cases, however, polymer fume fever can lead to severe pulmonary changes such as edema, consolidation, and pneumonitis, whereas fatalities from polymer fume fever, although very rare, have also been documented   . Cigarette smoking is one of the most important risk factors, which led to severe smoking prohibitions in industrial areas where polytetrafluoroethylene is released in fumes  .
The rare appearance of polymer fume fever today can be challenging for the physician. For this reason, a detailed patient history is of crucial importance in order to arrive at a diagnosis  . Basic features of symptoms (their pattern, time of onset, and duration) should be assessed, together with an occupational history that will reveal to which hazardous compounds the individual exposed to. Inhalation of fumes in households during cooking might also be a route of exposure , further emphasizing the essential role of a detailed assessment of activities that preceded the onset of symptoms. Imaging studies of the lungs may be necessary when severe symptoms are present, but it is not uncommon for chest X-rays to yield normal findings . However, consolidation and patchy infiltration of the lungs might be observed on plain radiography or computed tomography (CT)  . Pulmonary edema, although being a rare entity in polymer fume fever, can be seen as a bilateral ground-glass opacity or consolidation on CT . Other notable findings in the workup include reduced lung capacity on pulmonary function testing, leukocytosis, and elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)   .