If you have a chemical sensitivity or are allergic to perfumes it can be very hard to cope in the world. There are smells and fragrances blasted at us from colleagues in the workplace, air fresheners in bathrooms and houses, shops and gyms pumping out scents. It’s endless.
The rise in perfumes and scents
We’ve all experienced a whiff of such a heady scent that it stays around long after the carrier has wafted off. Some perfumes can be very overpowering, now whether this is just the mixing of nasty or noxious smells together, or purely the spraying of far too much, the outcome is the same. It’s just too much for some of us.
Picture this. You are at a party or networking event and you walk up to someone to introduce yourself. You immediately realise your mistake when your nostils and throat detect the smell of too strong perfume. You’re in trouble. For people with chemical sensitivities perfumes can cause allergic reactions ranging from mild, such as sneezing, wheezing and runny eyes to severe like anaphylaxis.
Some perfumes affect my breathing
Recently I experienced a very frightening new addition to my allergy portfolio. It went something like this. I was at an event, networking and mingling, like you do, and found myself talking to a charming lady. You know what’s coming don’t you? I’ve given you a clue already. I had already done the ‘try to step imperceptibly back ever so slightly’, but was still feeling ever more intoxicated. We were having an interesting conversation and she was leaning in to hear me better. It was noisy, busy and bustling, but I was having trouble breathing, my throat was slowly getting tighter, I needed my inhaler. I was loosing track of the conversation by now… and I eventually had to make my excuses that I was off in search of a glass of water. I actually was in search of a glass of water but the reason was far from innocent.
My throat was feeling like it was slowly closing up and I felt like an asthma attack could be imminent. This is one of the signs of a fast approaching anaphylactic attack for me. I found some space that wasn’t tainted by overpowering perfume and began to breath again. For a few minutes I had fought the oncoming asthma and tightening of the throat and my thoughts were racing; I had my epipen, I must take my inhaler, get some fresh air, tell someone… Luckily, just getting out of the vacinity of this perfume helped enormously. I began to feel calmer, my breathing levelled and my throat was no longer constricting. I could think straight again and the fog lifted.
How do perfume allergies start?
This has never happened to me before. I know I don’t like strong artificial perfumes and can’t be in a room with those horrible evil plug-in things, so what is it about perfumes that could illicit such a sudden response? I know, from reading other excellent blogs that others are similarly challenged, not just by perfumes but by chemicals and artificial smells everywhere. Visit ‘Your Smells Are Killing Me or YOSAKIME‘ blog to discover more about chemical sensitivity and how NAET treatment has brought a level of control back into his life.
But I’m not allergic to ALL perfumes. I have worn perfume (Dune), very occasionally, myself, and a few sprays doesn’t give me any adverse reaction ( I no longer wear any). I used to spray perfume on my clothes, a scarf or sleeve rather than on my skin and do like some after-shaves.
What chemicals cause these reactions?
So what was it about this particular perfume that got me reeling? I could track down this lady and find out what she was wearing. I am intrigued. Surely if I explained my predicament she would not be offended with my request. After all it’s not like I’m accusing her of body odour. Now that, unpleasant as it can be, I can bear – doesn’t make my throat close up.
Asthma and allergic reaction to milk vapour
I know from experience that I do react to milk vapours in the air as I’ve discovered in hot, steamy and busy cafes. Normal tea, if drunk by someone else in my vicinity would not cause me any concern. Put me in a coffee shop where they froth up the milk and it’s a different story. I can only assume that tiny particles of milk get into the air and are breathed in, causing me to have an asthma attack, for which inhalers do not work, unless I vacate the premises.
Latex and asthma in a bike shop
Walking into a bike shop is also becoming increasingly impossible. I have a latex allergy which is triggered by touching latex or coming into contact with degraded rubber that then becomes air borne. I can avoid the bike shop, but I can’t avoid everyone who might be wearing perfume? Can I?
And since I can wear perfume myself, is it a certain ingredient in some perfumes that is causing me the problem? Perhaps she was wearing ‘eu du dairy’ or ‘eu du nut’. Is it an artificial chemical fake smell? or a natural ingredient? If I find out I will update this blog post.
Why doesn’t perfume have ingredients?
Perfume is made up of lots of different ingredients, some natural and some not. I’ve never seen a perfume bottle with ingredients listed so how on earth would you ever start to discover or pinpoint which element of the perfume you were reacting to? It’s a minefield.
I found this article interesting, ‘Fragrance Sensitivity: When Scents Cause Symptoms’
John Scott has overcome his Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in a very interesting way. Read ‘Helminths reduce Multiple Chemical Sensitivity’
And this blog post ‘Dealing with the Misery of Fragrance Sensitivity’ and if you can ignore all the advertisements there are some interesting points and hints on how to cope.
Anyway, the journey continues. The vigilance is now up a notch. Now I think about it I have noticed some plastics have made me step back and I had to put something outside recently because of its smell. What exactly is changing I don’t know but we soldier on.
Fragrances pumped into public places
If you think you have an allergy to perfume or fragrances it’s easy to buy perfume free toiletries and natural environmental cleaners. Your house can be a safe haven, but what about when you go out? How do you avoid all the smelly perfumes? Many shops are pumped with artificial smells, taxi’s have air fresheners and if you’re in an enclosed space and can’t get out immediately like a bus, aeroplane or room it can be very uncomfortable.
And what might the postman be bringing? Increasingly magazines contain perfume tear open strips, some printed literature can contain coatings which can contain latex and chemicals. Smells and chemicals are everywhere.
Fabric and clothing freshener sprays
I really don’t understand why anyone needs to spray furniture, carpets, curtains or clothes with fresheners. Just wash stuff, air it, buy new. If it smells bad address the issue, whether it’s damp, dirty, old, whatever. Clean it, don’t spray with artificial fragrances.
Could you stop wearing perfume for others safety?
Please consider not wearing too much perfume, particularly at work, which should be a safe space. Hospitals and medical facilities should also be perfume free places. Often they are not.
I’ve actually stopped wearing any now, partly for myself and partly because I can see how hard it is for people just reading the comments below.
Don’t douse yourself in intoxicating aromas. I’d rather smell the real you – well, most of the time anyway…
I wonder if we even need perfume? We shouldn’t smell so bad that we need it mask our scent. In fact we should be more attracted to someone’s natural odour than their perfume.
Are you allergic to perfumes or chemicals?
I’d love to hear from anyone who knows more about this and anyone else who has experienced similar problems with perfumes or fragrances. How do you cope? Have you ever had to speak to a friend or colleague about their perfume? Do you know what perfumes of chemicals you react to and how did you find out?
You may also find the following of interest:
- How clean is your indoor air quality?
- Allergen and pollen free artificial plants and flowers for your home
- 10 things your asthma nurse won’t tell you
Photo by Alex Rosario on Unsplash
I have awful reactions to certain perfumes and fragrances. Anything from pounding headaches and watery eyes to severe phlem overproduction causing a drowning affect and severe migraines and vomiting. It is not fair that I have to take antihistamines daily and still not be protected because I am being blasted with chemicals I cannot avoid. How some people can be so rude is beyond me.
I have the exact same reactions! Headaches and feeling I am going to vomit …. and the most sad thing is that when I asked co-workers to try to stay away from me, they disrespect me, purposelly stay prolonged time in my working space area and some well aware of my problem go to the duty free shops and put some more on …. I was also once screamed on that I am BULLYING HER!!!!!! People are mean … I do not wish anyone anything bad but I would like them to experience how it feels so they would understand.
this bullying does happen. Why someone would be deliberately cruel is beyond me but I guess clerical jobs are boring so they want to stir things up a bit by tormenting a coworker.
Your fragrance is my asthma attack says
Exactly, co-worker turned on me.bad after I said nobody needs to wear perfumes at work. I was told “nobofy’s going to stop me from wear fragrence”. With in 3 weeks I was laid off.
Ruth Holroyd says
That’s awful! but not a nice place to work. Not sure what I’d do…
YOU are as big a part of the problem as ANYONE! YOU don’t like the stench UNLESS it is YOUR STENCH! Gimme a break …. PERFUMES / COLOGNES STINK and MAKE SOME DEATHLY ILL! BUT since YOURS does not bother YOU that is supposedly OK!
YOU STINK LADY ………. AND YOU MAKE PEOPLE ILL!
Nina Abbey says
Actually, I can’t stand even my own perfume. I quit using any kind of fragrance. I can’t use any kind of product with fragrance at least that’s natural as organic cocoa butter cream or some kind of organic creme
Fragrance allergies run in my family. But it is only the women (my great-grandmother, grandmother, aunt, and cousin all have fragrances allergies as well as me). They, however, only get an instant migraine and occasionally nauseous. I immediately get itchy, watery eyes; within 10 minutes my airways constrict and it feels as though I have a 50lb weight upon my chest; about 15 after exposure to fragrance I get hives. Oddly enough, only me and my late great-grandmother were born with this allergy; everyone else sort of grew into it. As I grew older (and it is getting worse with age as I am only 22) I also started to get headaches and nauseous from fragrance along with my previous symptoms. I have to take an antihistamine daily to prevent anaphylactic shock. Mostly it is only fragrances that effect me but I am not effected by most citrus fragrances and I am effected by juniper and lavender (as in the actual plant/flower found in nature as well as the artificial scent). it is just a huge pain that I must live with. I hope I never have a daughter as she will probably have this allergy too.
I understand and is very glad that I’m not crazy! People just don’t understand and how can they? I didn’t understand. Posting how our bodies react and the seriousness of the situation can help if someone will listen. It is a huge pain! My body dislikes are Bath & Body works, fabric softeners and sheets, cheap colognes, cigarettes, alcohol seeping through human pores and multiple plug-ins in one room! Especially when the person double, triples or quad the amount because they want to smell really good. now, my nose runs but, yet, is dry all the time. painful!
Abdul Muqeet says
Same here…!! Some fragrances make me difficult to breath nd heartbeat get slower..but problem is you have to avoid those friends nd family members ..
Luckily for me I have only had this problem with strangers, not my close family and friends. Now that would be hard to deal with
I never thought it might be an allergy…
I’ve always been sensitive to strong fragrances but my family would just laugh at me when I complain I can’t breathe. Now that I saw this article, I realize that my family’s perfumes might not be affecting me as much because I have been on anti-histamine for something else.
I only started to look into it now because my grandmother is sharing a room with me…. I forgot to take my anti-histamine the night before. My grandma’s side has a condition where they can’t smell very well. So grandma mostly soaks her clothes in perfume. I woke up and ran out… to the laughter of my family.
I have always had problems with perfumes and some natural scents. I have recently grow into a whole new set of allergies, including food allergies, that were set off this allergy season. My body is reacting to almost everything right now. My wife LOVES scents. Luckily she understands and had gone almost completely scent free. My job is something different. I work in Europe, where people love to pour on perfume. Early mornings are like minefields. I try to quickly move to my office before I come into contact with anyone. My biggest fear is travel. I have already had on indecent where I almost passed out in a car… a car can be stopped, what about flying?
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
There’s no way I could ever get on a plane. It scares me, too.
I don’t know what the laws are in Europe for work environment. Can you discuss this with your employer without compromising your position? Perhaps they can implement a fragrance-free workplace? A fragrance sensitivity certainly affects productivity and employee turnover so it is in the best interests (financially) of the company to protect the health of their employees. It’s a touchy subject though, so be careful. You may find you don’t have a choice (like I didn’t). Good luck.
I, too, have allergies to perfumes. It is terrible when you try and get it through to people that you are allergic to the chemicals in the perfume that they bathe in. I find it offensive and I do not understand why people need to bathe in their perfume when simply a spray or two would be more pleasant than to fill a whole room with your scent. It does not make you more attractive, it makes you unattractive. I often think of elderly when I am affected by the smell that makes me choke and closes up my throat, gives me a headache and make me want to throw up. What about them? they certainly probably feel worse than I do, having the problems of an older person on top of somebody coming in with a cloud of perfume I just can’t imagine the suffering they must go through. My ex father in law had black lung from being a coal miner. I had to go completely fragrance free because he was so sensitive to any fragrance that it would choke him up. I never complained and I went fragrance free for him because I cared about him, I don’t understand why the people that I love and are supposed to love me, don’t get the same feeling. Instead it makes me feel like I’m a bother and I am the one that is wrong. I think what is wrong is the companies that make these perfumes are to test the chemicals that they use and make sure they do not cause chemical reactions to people I think all natural products would be much more pleasant. If a whole room smells like you, you have used way too much cologne. It is not an identity, it is just merely something to make you smell good. I think some people use it as an identity, I really do, as stupid as that sounds I really think that they want to be known by that scent. I don’t know if it’s because of the popularity of the fragrance or how much it cost or what the latest fad is, I am NOT into that kind of thing, but I can tell you if I was a lawyer I would be inclined to want to sue someone not put me in an asthma attack that nearly puts me in the hospital I think it is ridiculous to fill a whole room with a scent. one or two squirts at the most is plenty that’s for sure.I find it socially rude to spray on too much cologne have some respect for those around you. Not everybody wants to smell you, or have their eyes burn, because of you, or want to go to the hospital because you smell ‘pretty’. and if you know that someone has an allergy to Cologne, and you continue to bathe in it, shame on you! That is almost like it should be an assault charge in my opinion.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
Bekkah, I agree with EVERYTHING in your post!!! I equate wearing perfume with someone holding a gun to my head. It is assault.
In most cases where people are wearing too much perfume, it’s because they are addicted to the chemicals and the chemicals have turned off their brain so they don’t smell it. And that is why they re-apply it over and over again. It’s just like a drug addiction.
There are lots of employment-related lawsuits where chemically sensitive employees sue their companies because the companies refuse to provide them with healthy work environments, but it’s not a clear-cut legal situation which makes it difficult. Lawsuits set precedent, however, because money is power and losing money is worse. This makes people rethink their practices.
Chris Garman says
Exposing me to artificial scent is assault with a deadly weapon. If I could only find a medically acceptable way to prove it.
I totally understand how you are all feeling. I have suffered for years with this problem. I had a short course of cognitive therapy, which helped slightly. But still it goes on. My partner wears aftershave, we have been together for 6 years. After we met, I explained my allergy to him. He still wears it and has never asked me if it bothers me! It does when he first puts it on, I open the window(he doesn’t get the hint!) once it has worn off it is pleasant but I avoid kissing and cuddling for a while. (Our relationship is another problem I am dealing with)
I have had to ask friends to not wear it when they are seeing me. It’s only luck if they remember. I look after an old lady for two hours a week she has dementia. After helping her with a bath and dressing, she sometimes sprays perfume. Can’t do much about it as she won’t remember, I just distract her and avoid her doing it.
My problem is, I suffer with excema and sensative skin, once I smell an overpowering perfume/plug in/ air freshener/ candle ect my face feels like it is sunburnt and my scalp gets really itchy and sore spots. I just want to open windows or go outside.
Still looking for a solution apart from staying home in my fragrance free environment, alone
I too have this dreaded fragrance allergy or whatever you wish to call it; throat swelling and everything. I have seen more than my fair share of doctors with little progress. I have made my house fragrance free, but unfortunately I had to drop out of university because of this allergy. I have tried antihistamines, inhalers/nebulizers, and caffeine. Does anyone here have any other tips and tricks to help out? I am quite desperate 🙁
Hi, Brent. I know just how you feel (see my comment below). You definitely need to keep protecting yourself. There ARE masks you can purchase that will put at least a bit of a barrier between the airborne chemical molecules you’re reacting to and your respiratory system. Go to Amazon or Ebay, or you can even just do a ‘Google’ on
allergy mask fragrance
…and you should come up with several.
Another possibility of something that might help is a ‘personal air purifier’, which is supposed to clear the air immediately around you. I’ve ordered one to try (have to be on an airplane in a couple of weeks and I’m dreading it – haven’t flown for five years!). I’ll let you know how it works. 🙂
Hi Linda, I love the idea of a personal air purifier… did you try one yet? I’d love to hear how you got on with that.
I did buy one before my trip to CA to visit my son – could have saved the $65. It didn’t really do much of anything for the fragrance issue. Best thing that works for me now when out is wearing a surgical mask – but that has its limits, and once it’s absorbed as much as it can, has to be changed.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
I haven’t tried personal air filters, but I’ve heard from others they don’t make much of a difference especially if there is a lot of perfume/chemicals of any kind in the air. Airplanes are a real issue because all air is recirculated so whatever is in the plane gets circulated back in. Eeewww…it’s like being in a tiny enclosure breathing a toxic cesspool of everyone’s mixed stink. (I used to work for an airline and fly a lot!)
Masks tend to help a lot of people, but many of them are coated with chemicals so one needs to be very vigilant about the type of mask. The cloth ones help with limited exposures. I’ve heard the charcoal masks are the best and least costly. You can buy through special order fancy ceramic masks without plastic parts. Many people react badly to plastic and high-tech masks are usually made with plastic. Even oxygen tanks use plastic tubing which offgasses really nasty fumes.
Ruth, For your dust issues, what about a regular air purifier for while you are staying with your in-laws? Dust is difficult for sure. I changed out my whole heating system because the furnace I was using was spewing so much dust due to the materials used for its manufacturing. What kind of heating do your in-laws have? Hopefully you won’t be living there too long?
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
I’m so sorry for your sensitivity and totally understand. Doctors won’t help as they are people who’s very careers depend on being able to prescribe chemicals so they aren’t about to agree that your condition is caused by them. I am babbling way too much today so I will just link my website http://www.multiplechemicalsurvivor.blogspot.com there is an index and I’ve written about nearly everything it might take to survive. There are no easy answers and definitely no cure. Research as well as health care and government are controlled by chemical companies so don’t expect any medical breakthrough soon!
Chris Garman says
I carry a half face respirator with filter cartridges marked: NIOSH CL/HC/SD/CD/HF/OV/HS/AM/FM/MA
Regular organic vapour cartridges do nothing. Prolonged use of this respirator is also harmful apparently. Don’t sleep in it either as you won’t get enough air at a sleeping breathing rate.
About fifteen to twenty years ago, I began to react badly to the smell of highly scented perfumes and colognes, lotions, body washes, etc. The initial ‘catch of breath’ I would experience escalated to coughing fits, which turned into coughing and wheezing, which turned into full-blown asthma. Never knowing when I’d run across someone wearing ‘too much’ perfume made life miserable, and the attacks became more and more frequent; more and more intense. People I’d known for years couldn’t understand it – perfumes never used to bother me, why now? “Isn’t there anything you can do for it?” I’m sure many of them thought I was ‘putting it on’, or making it up. But the more I read, the more I understand about the why and when…
Consider the following info from: http://invisibledisabilities.org/educate/chemicalsensitivities/whygofragrancefree/ —-
“Perfumes used to be made from natural ingredients like flowers and herbs. However, perfume formulations changed sometime around the late 70s and early 80s. (SIDE NOTE: How about that – not too long before I started reacting to them. Go figure!) Today, they are approximately 95-100% synthetic (MAN-made). Using crude oil or turpentine oil as the base material, synthetics are usually derived from chemical reactions. These synthetic compounds are chemicals that can be dangerous to many when inhaled or applied to the skin.
Author Connie Pitts explained, “Perfumes, colognes, and many other scented products contain an abundance of harmful chemicals, many of which are listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List. They also include numerous carcinogenic chemicals, neurotoxins, respiratory irritants, solvents, aldehydes, hundreds of untested and unregulated petro-chemicals, phthalates (which can act as hormone disrupters), narcotics, and much more.”(2)
I firmly believe that I – and many other ‘canaries in the coal mine’ like me – are living, breathing (or perhaps BARELY breathing!) proof that Pitts got it right. My 57th birthday ‘gift’ to myself was a chest x-ray. Diagnosis: emphysema. I was a former smoker, but I quit nearly eight years before. An x-ray from around the time I quit showed only slight scarring from pneumonia. One from last summer (2013) suggested ‘signs’ of COPD. But now, after many more severe attacks of coughing and wheezing over the last year (from fragrances!) …
Kind of funny, too, in a sad sort of way… when I got to the radiology desk for that x-ray, guess what? I had to stand fifteen feet from the desk and shout my info to the lady checking me in because she was wearing, not perfume, she said… “…but I have hand lotion on – we all do.” She seemed a tad annoyed that I was coughing and wheezing in front of her from her HIGHLY scented ‘hand lotion.’
Another woman behind the desk took pity on me and asked if I wanted her to get me a mask. “Please!” I gasped – but DID remember to ask if SHE was wearing hand lotion (she was not) before putting the mask she handed me over my mouth and nose. It actually did help. I even wore it to Walmart later, where I bought a couple of more sturdier masks meant to protect one from inhalation of dangerous fumes. Good thing, too – I think I would not have fared well if I hadn’t. I got a few whiffs of perfume-laden ladies, but not enough to cause a bad attack.
I also got a few odd looks, and have about decided that, since it appears I’m not going to be able to go places without some sort of barrier between me and the scents that are killing me, I might make a sign to wear around my neck, like the lepers of old. “I wear a mask because your perfumes are killing me. Any more questions, ask!”
How many years did it take us to learn the dangers of smoking, or second-hand smoke? How many will more years will it take before we understand that the chemicals used in the production of today’s scented products might be – and probably are! – just as dangerous? I DID quit smoking. Sadly, I can’t control others’ use of chemicals on their bodies and in their homes.
Old-time miners used to take a caged canary into the mines with them. If toxic gases such as methane or carbon monoxide built up or leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, warning them to leave the mine immediately before the fumes could kill them, too.
I and others like me are your canaries in the coal mine. This is your warning. I hope it helps. It’s already too late for me.
Thanks for the comment Linda, it’s a mystery really, the complexity of the human body. All we can do is give it the best go we can and hope for the best. Don’t give up hope though… surely there must be some hope. I think our overuse of chemicals will become more and more of a problem. Thinking of you. Ruth
I’ve just learned of MCS today, on the internet and pleased to read the blogs. My story is that I gave myself a chemical cocktail in 1986 when I was in Europe, fuelled by alcohol, extensive use of perfume, passive smoking and Chernobyl fallout. Since then, I’ve been reacting to chemical smells and when I raised it with my family doctor (approx 15 years ago), he related it to stress and bronchial asthma. I now believe it’s MCS.
The first symptoms I experienced back then were fatigue (like running into a brick wall) and brittle fingernails (which I still have). It was years before I realised that the walk up the supermarket aisle in the toiletries and cleaning sections would ruin the rest of my day (beforehand, feeling totally energised until chemically overwhelmed and then I was a lethargic mess who found it difficult to simply unpack the groceries and needed to sleep for hours).
A healthy eating diet and exercise regime became my focus and this helped but, after 25 years, complacency has gotten the better of me… nightly glass of wine, dairy, chocolate, very little exercise and now I’m experiencing strong sensitivity again. Of course, I’ve considered it’s ‘an age thing’. However, yesterday while shopping early morning, energised and happy, I was chatting with an attendant for less than 2 minutes when I became aware that my thought processes rapidly diminished, my heart rate altered and my breathing became wheezy. I couldn’t smell a perfume on the attendant but asked, regardless. She was wearing another of those celebrity synthetic based perfumes. Another attendant had to finish the sale and I quickly rushed outside to breathe some fresh air.
My symptoms vary. At times, my mind goes blank and there is short-term memory loss. During stressful encounters, my speech can become slurred. When networking, all is fine until the fragrance smell becomes so influential that my neurons simply don’t fire up to give me the spark to continue a conversation or run with a thread of thought.
The reason why I’m taking more notice of researched info and blogs is because of the seriousness to my ‘quality’ life and the increasing difficulty it is for me to manage my health and career. I’m now a single parent, work full-time in a professional field and have a huge and unexpected financial debt. My fatigue and depressive mood swings can be unbearable.
Therefore, I’ve decided to change my dietary habits and develop a lifestyle routine that includes exercise, meditation and more laughter. Starting today, Christmas Eve. Step by step. I would also like to send messages to those celebrities who continue creating toxic products and capitalising upon our poor health. Thank you, Ruth, for providing this forum.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
It’s all about overload. Do what you can to avoid exposures and reduce the load and your reactions will decrease. Chemicals are in food, too, so find cleaner foods to eat. You don’t want to become so reactive that you can’t work…
Yeah, there are times I don’t smell anything, but I start reacting. I’ve had friends walk into places me and they can smell perfume, but I can’t. I’ve learned the hard way when I need to get out of the area fast!
They call it Multiple Chemical Sensitivity because it affects multiple body systems. I also get neurological symptoms if exposed to perfumes/chemicals because these toxins mess with our brains.
There was a group/website who wrote and posted an open letter to celebrities about their perfume endorsements. It’s all about money though which is why celebrities endorse these poisons. The only thing that will stop them is if people stop buying them. Very frustrating, but we live in an age filled with egocentric, self-centered lacking in self-esteem people who NEED to wear perfume so they feel good about themselves. I think it’s a mental illness as there is no other justification for wearing perfume.
I don’t think it’s a mental illness, or being self centred or lacking self esteem. It’s all about awareness. People just don’t know. They have no idea perfume causes health problems for other people or that it might be causing them problems too. Why would they? How would they know unless they knew someone with MCS who spoke to them? It’s like allergy awareness, so many people don’t understand and it’s just ignorance, we just have to keep talking, spreading the word and sharing what it’s like living with these issues.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
OK. I think awareness is needed for sure and it might stop people from wearing perfume, but lack of awareness isn’t WHY people wear perfume.
So WHY do people wear perfume? Why do some people reapply throughout the day as if their lives depend on it? Why do some people say they can’t live without it? Perfume is not necessary for life. There is no rational justification for wearing it.
Why do you wear perfume? You are going to have to do some soul searching to determine the answer to this question. Why do you want to wear it when you go out?
I did a poll once and I asked a whole bunch of perfume wearers why they wear perfume. I think it’s a mental illness…and a lot of it has to do with lack of self-esteem. But to be clear, mental illness isn’t limited to serious mental illness like paranoia, schizophrenia, or bipolar illness, but includes any illness based on brain function. Lack of self esteem is a mental illness. People go to counseling for it. We can agree to disagree.
You said you wanted dialogue! You certainly have received it! I hope you aren’t regretting it.
I don’t know why, some of my friends have LOADS of perfumes to choose from. I have one bottle which is probably more than 15 years old and probably gone off anyway! It always seemed like a waste of money to me and I hardly wear any makeup either, feel like rather a clown when I have so prefer going au naturelle. Personally, and this might be a bit off topic, I much prefer people’s natural smells, with no soap, aftershave etc. Sometimes even fresh sweat can be quite a turn on. BUT NOT ALWAYS. There I said it.
—I don’t think it’s… being self centered… People just don’t know. They have no idea perfume causes health problems for other people or that it might be causing them problems too.—
I’m not so sure, Ruth. When I’ve tried to convince people of the dangers of today’s chemical brews that pass for perfume – even included links to analysis of one or another of the BIG brands, done independently, which talk about the many irritants and neurotoxins used, this was one friend’s reply:
“I love perfume. I wear it everyday. Don’t blame them. It was smoking that did this and you know it!” (We quit at the same time eight years ago).
My reply: No – it was not, Carol. The smoking didn’t help, I’m sure. But I was FINE when I quit. I kept calling it ‘asthma’ and ‘a perfume allergy’ for too many years. Too many attacks. Every attack did more damage. I could actually feel it over the last two or three years…”
Oh, I don’t wear cheap perfume. I wear designer names like Oscar De La Renta, and Christian Dior.
I have problems with cheap perfumes but my high end stuff, no problem. I use little dabs so it’s not a huge problem.
I tried one more time…
Except for someone like me. Check this out: (it’s a message board discussing the ‘older’ Oscar De La Renta vs the ‘new’ formulation):
I adored Oscar during the 80s. The body lotion was wonderful, too. I was shocked when I later tried the reformulated one. I have a vintage parfum mini to sniff when I feel the urge. –Lilybelle
ME: The difference? Natural ingredients (’80s) vs. chemical formulation today.
Her final word on the subject –
I’m sorry but it does not bother me so I’m okay with it.
Hard-headed or self-centered? Take your pick.
This was MY final response:
Wow. Just so you know… someday, it probably will kill you. Just READ the research! Please. It’s NOT natural stuff anymore. It’s the same kind of chemicals we railed about when we were on the Q – some of the chemicals used in today’s perfumes are the SAME kind of shit they put in sickarettes! They’re just disguised with a ‘pretty’ smell. You helped me keep that quit. I don’t want you to die from something you don’t need to wear to be attractive!
I’d like to ‘wake up’ the entire country – just don’t know where to start!
Sorry – the user name was inadvertently combined with the link above. This is the correct link: http://perfumeshrine.blogspot.com/2013/04/oscar-de-la-renta-oscar-original-1977.html
Actually, it’s not ignorance to enjoy wearing perfume. It’s ignorance to have a personal issue and to expect that the entire world cater to it. Take your medication.i don’t need to know and I don’t care if you like my perfume. Maybe there are many things about you, your arrogant self importance, your bad manners, and perhaps your body odor, that I find plenty offensive. I don’t think that you care, or that you want to know my feelings either. Grow up and deal with your problem. The world is not going to adjust itself for your personal benefit.
My husband is allergic to maple trees and insect bites. Should all the maple trees be cut down? Should all insects be irradiated from his presence? I am allergic to fish. Should I insist that nobody ever eats fish again? Get over yourselves people. You do not have domain over your friends and coworkers, nor should you. Thaler your meds and shut up.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
So, Ruth, you are chemically sensitive, but you wear toxic perfume? And you wear it because YOU don’t react to it? What about everyone else who will react to it? Do you not care that you are poisoning others??????????????? It’s a little hard to take your article entitled “Please Don’t Wear Perfume…” seriously when YOU wear perfume and are contributing to the misery of others.
Granted, it’s probably just a matter of time before your body is overloaded with the chemicals from that perfume. You WILL continue to get worse and one day you will be unable to go NEAR a party. You’ll have to quit your job. You may then be considered legally disabled and confined to your home because people like YOU are out there wearing perfume because “Well, it doesn’t bother ME so why should I care about YOU?”
WOW well that is one way of looking at it. But you don’t know me. I am sorry that you have MCS and having had mild reactions to fragrances in shops myself and some people’s perfume, I am wary and can appreciate how awful that must be if going out becomes impossible due to fragrances and chemicals in the environment.
I wear a dab of Dune perfume if I’m going out. Usually on a scarf or clothes. So what. What has that got to do with you? I am allergic to some foods but not all. I don’t cut out all foods. Not quite the same. I’m not quite sure what your point is. Who banned perfume? What I find is that SOME perfumes seem so noxious and maybe too much has been applied that I can’t breathe. Could we not be looking at situation where SOME fragrances are more irritant than others?
I merely wanted to open a debate here. I am not an expert in MCS. I just wanted to debate how some perfume causes me a problem but not others. Can’t we talk about that without getting so wound up?
Ruth she asked you not to wear “a dab” of perfume. I am very sensitive to fragrances and don’t wear any but due to living in a densely populated area I get daily doses of fragrances from dryer exhaust vents. persons around me wearing fragrances (including my upstairs neighbor when her windows are open or she comes downstairs to leave her apartment) and smoke also from chimneys in the winter.
Since persons not sensitive to fragrances are bombarding us daily if you are sensitive to ANY fragrances the courteous thing to do for others with sensitivities is to refrain from the use of perfume, cologne or aftershave as they are MEANT to be smelled and if anyone can understand how this “cramps” our lives, it should be you. Best to go as fragrance free as possible!
Hi Rebecca, I do totally get where the comment above was coming from but I guess I took a little offence, especially to the final paragraph which felt like an attack, ie. Because I wear a dab of perfume, despite knowing how badly it can affect others, I will end up getting full on MCS myself, become registered disabled, have to give up my job and never leave my home… I didn’t really like the comment, but I approved it because I could see it came from the heart and deserved to be there. But it did upset me. I can understand why she is angry (don’t know her name) with her own condition.
And I’m really pleased to have people debating this. I understand totally. I have such severe allergies that I have to be so careful when eating out. It is a military operation, so I am well aware what it feels like to be trapped at home, too scared to eat anything I have not prepared myself for fear of an anaphylactic reaction. However I do not expect the whole world to eradicate peanuts just because I am allergic to them. However I don’t get a bad reaction to the smell of the, I have done to air borne peanuts on an aeroplane. I have also had asthma attacks in coffee shops from air borne milk (I think). So I totally understand but to expect EVERYONE to avoid these things just because I can longer tolerate them seems extreme.
I cannot eat any nuts, any dairy, soya or wheat due to being severely allergic. I also cannot eat tomato or celery which both give me delayed allergic reactions but are not life threatening. I am also allergic to dust, latex. nickel, animal hair, pollen, mould etc. I could probably go on. This does affect my life, especially the dust allergy which drive me insane. I cannot breath well in many busy places, if it’s really dusty I just have to leave, inhalers don’t work. I am staying at the in-laws now which is very dusty, for me anyway, it doesn’t look dusty. But in a full house with other people’s dust I’m really struggling. I cannot eradicate dust can I? I have to just get on with it. Keep my asthma under control as best I can, take measures when I can to avoid places which are very dusty, I have a great dust mask which works well but I do feel a fool wearing it.
Sometimes, when my asthma is bad the only place I feel safe is my own home. At the moment I only have a mild problem with SOME fragrances so maybe I am heading for full on MCS but I really pray not. I wouldn’t wish allergies on my worst enemy (not sure I have any worse enemies) so I certainly wouldn’t with MCS on anyone either. Reading a comment that seemed to be wishing yet another crippling problem on me didn’t really feel very constructive to any debate.
So back to the perfume. I can’t remember when I last wore some, but why should I feel guilty if, on the odd occasion when I get dressed up that I shouldn’t wear just a dab? I am giving it some thought though because I do understand the predicament of all of you with MCS who must feel trapped in a cruel world of toxic smells.
I wonder, question for all you MCS people out there, knowing that people have peanut allergies etc. would you consider not eating peanuts when you were out ever again? Just a thought.
I don’t believe there is nothing we can do about this. Are there any safe perfumes? or natural essential oils which a person with MCS can tolerate? Is it just man made smells that cause problems? I am really interested in this so will be looking into it. None of the skin care products I use contain perfume unless it’s from a natural essential oil and this year, my new year’s resolution is to really look at all the stuff I use to wash my skin, hair etc. and also perfume (really not that important I could easily live without the perfume) but is there a safe alternative out there? Yours, thinking about this issue… but is it just ANOTHER thing to add to LONG list of things to avoid…?
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
Your food allergies are allergies, immunoglobin responses from your body. Perfume is not an allergy, it’s a toxic chemical that is a poison. It doesn’t matter to me if you eat peanuts or any other food. That’s your choice. We don’t share a digestive tract. Those peanuts aren’t going to poison me. We share an air space. Your perfume is poisoning me. If I eat peanuts, I’m not going to shove them down your throat. IF my peanuts were causing a reaction just from smelling them, then most DEFINITELY I wouldn’t ever eat peanuts again because I care about how I affect the health of other people and I personally don’t want to be responsible for their misery nor their death. It’s all about empathy. Of course, I don’t smoke either. In fact, I don’t even own a cell phone because I’ve read they are contributing to the increase in childhood leukemia.
I’m not angry with my own condition. I am angry at all the insensitive, inconsiderate, ignorant people who are contributing to it. I haven’t always been sensitive to perfume. In fact, I used to wear perfume when I was younger and ignorant. As I said in my first comment, it’s just a matter of time and your body will be overloaded with toxic chemicals that just may make you so intolerant that you will be unable to tolerate even your “dab”. This is not an attack, it’s science. This is how it works. You are already showing signs of sensitivity which means your body is showing overload. You can be in denial all you want and blame me for an attack. It’s not an attack, it’s a warning. But when you do get so intolerant you won’t be able to be in public places or work, I guarantee it’ll feel like an attack.
“perfume…(really not that important I could easily live without the perfume…” You just answered your own question. WHY does anyone NEED perfume? NEED. PERFUME. What is the rational purpose for perfume? WHY does anyone NEED an alternative to perfume? Are we so brainwashed in this society that we MUST wear a toxic chemical in order to exist? Perfume does not contribute to health in any way at all and only damages health. Why is society so brainwashed that people feel they need to camouflage their body’s natural scent? Studies have been done on this and lots of conclusions on why divorce rates are so high…we can’t smell our mates in order to make a good match. (Interesting….)
Some people can tolerate essential oils, some can’t. Once the body is overloaded, the hypothalamus kicks into a survival mode for those who are seriously chemically sensitive and registers strong scents as a warning just as if it were a perfume. There isn’t anything natural about jacking up a perfectly natural scent from a flower or plant to be 40,000 times it’s potency just so people can SMELL not like a human. WHY do we need to smell like a non-human????
I’m going to try to send this comment. I haven’t been able to comment because your blog won’t accept my math skills…
People need perfume because it brings them joy. You can’t dictate to others what they want to use to give them joy. It’s tough to have your condition but you are also acting like a little dictator trying to force people to act the way you want them to. This world will never be perfume free. The only thing changing are people in it. I have to say that I’m pissed that someone thinks they have the right to stop people from using perfume because their body can’t handle it. Move, avoid places or change a job but don’t expect other people to pander to your condition and tiptoe around you.
Probably tired of comments on how this perfume allergy is different from an allergy to things that can you CAN avoid, but after a bout of flu over the holiday (symptoms exacerbated by the underlying lung problems fragrance products have helped cause landed me at urgent care, on the phone advice of my doc), I had to share…
How often has anyone gone to urgent care and left in WORSE shape? The nurse – ONLY one there – had some sort of smelly something or other on that sent me into the worst asthma attack I’ve had in two months. I was wearing a mask initially (lots of people in there with masks on!) so didn’t realize it until she had to take my temp. No ‘ear’ or ‘forehead’ swipe thermometer – by mouth, so mask off, thermometer in, no breathing until she got the temp, then took one deep breath and it was all over with… Non-stop coughing wheezing for the next five to ten minutes. She could have warned me too – I’d just gotten done telling her (THROUGH the mask) about the asthma/fragrance problem! So no sooner does she leave than the PA comes in wanting to listen to my breathing!?
“Are you doing that on purpose?”
Yes, of course I am, I just LOVE feeling like I’m never going to get another deep, full breath of air in this lifetime!
(That’s what I WANTED to tell him, but didn’t, of course. Just wheezed… “ASTHMA attack! Fragrance”)
Took a while but he finally got enough of a listen that he was satisfied it was all UPPER respiratory wheezing… as in ASTHMA (duh, ya think?) and decides I need a nebulizer treatment (for the attack caused by HIS nurse?!?)…
“…and make sure you follow up with your own doctor; don’t wait until after the holiday!” (This was between Christmas and New Year).
The next day, my pulmonologist decided we’d another ten days of the prednisone ‘burst’ I’d been on, due to the extra lung inflammation from that asthma attack at urgent care. Prednisone is a scary, last-resort kind of med, to be avoided if possible (the side effects can be horrid), so at present I could be feeling more than usually resentful about 2nd hand air pollution…
I expect people to have perfume on in a restaurant, and usually stay out of them. What I don’t expect is to have perfumed workers taking care of ME in a HEALTH care setting.
One of the first pieces of advice a doc will give you if you develop asthma is “Avoid any triggers.” LOVE to! Just tell me how…
OH that is awful… I never wear any perfume to work… ever. Why would you? I am seriously thinking of never wearing any again. But is it ALL perfume? or are some ok? and is a tiny bit OK? or is it just a total avoidance that is the only answer for people like you Linda?
I have been there with the rubbish service in A&E. Last time my husband had to rush me in (friend made me a cake, said it was special for me, so special she used butter but substituted the milk with rice milk… doh!) anyway to cut a long story short they told me I didn’t have asthma. Despite the fact I cannot even speak it was so bad. But because I don’t wheeze out loud, I just get totally blocked airways and cannot get a breathe in.. it’s horrible. My husband had to beg them to help me, eventually I was put on a nebuliser and it’s like instant relief. What would I do without the nebuliser? But to have your condition made worse by someone wearing perfume is ridiculous. A neighbour just visited here and whilst I was OK with it, her perfume just smelt so strong and even though she has now gone home, the room smells of her perfume, so I can see how they hang in the air and could be a nightmare for you lot with MCS. Is it certain purfumes which are worse? or all perfume? or just dowsing oneself in too much? I could easily live without perfume so I will try to, from now on… especially in general work situation when I never would anyway. Awful. Really feel for you Linda. Hope you are recovering now.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
Oh, my last comment was accepted. Doesn’t 8 + 7 equal 15?
Every perfume contains from 800 to 3000 different chemicals. One chemical might make it smell like roses, another chemical serves to stablize it, that chemical might not smell good, so they have add another chemical that will “turn off” that smell in your brain, that chemical doesn’t mix well with the rose chemical, so they have to add another chemical to help that mix, that chemical doesn’t smell good (because our brains are really good at registering toxic substances), so they have to add another chemical so we can’t smell that one. Have you ever picked up a bottle of “unscented” product and on the ingredients there is “masking fragrance”? That’s a chemical that messes with your brain function so you can’t smell. Do you really want to wear toxic perfumes on your body that are designed to turn off your brain? Do you ever wonder why some people wear so much perfume or reapply it throughout the day because they think it has worn off? This is a chemical addiction just like any other drug…
Ruth, I’m really hoping I’m some how helping you understand. I know my initial comments/emails repulsed you and you perceived them as attacks…granted, I also felt attacked since people who wear perfume ARE attacking me, but your health is also on the line and that concerns me.
Rest assured I have approved all your comments… they may have gone into spam I guess. My blog does get bombarded with spam which I try to check but it gets thousands so I just have to delete them. I do have quite high security which does stop even ME getting into the blog apologies if these restrictions stopped any of your comments. The only comment which isn’t here is the one which came through as an email. I’m happy to post that one here too if you want me to. It never appeared as comment for some reason.
I do get it, but I wonder how you will ever change things with such a huge perfume industry… will everyone else stop wearing perfume? Will me stopping wearing a dab make a drop in the ocean? I guess it’s a start.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
I am SO HAPPY you are seeing the light!!!!
It’s a huge industry and the chemical industry is VERY powerful. The only way things will change if we as consumers makes choices that send a message with our money. If we don’t buy it, they won’t make it! We can only hope with dialogue and education that more people will understand. As time goes by, more people are becoming chemically sensitive because we are so bombarded with these chemicals. Ten years ago it was nearly impossible to find fragrance-free business, schools, etc., now they are all over. Things are changing. It is said fragrance health concerns are about 20 years behind the smoking health issues in terms of understanding and policy making. It’s just a matter of time. Until then, I’ll continue to be vocal…I’ll just try not to sound like I’m attacking people with my ideas. (I’ll try!)
Chris Garman says
Sorry to but in. For me it is ANY amount of ANY synthetic fragrance. I have yet to find anyone who claims to have as severe a sensitivity as I do though so I can’t speak for everyone.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
There is an author out there who calls hospitals “Temples of Doom” and there are all kinds of statistics on the numbers of people who die in hospitals BECAUSE of the hospital, not because of whatever condition they have/had.
I have learned to be proactive in the company of anyone wearing perfume. I don’t have a choice. I see it as my obligation to educate although it’s exhausting and sometimes I don’t have the energy to be so vocal. Health care professionals should NOT be wearing perfume. I probably would have asked the nurse if she was wearing perfume, if she said “yes” I would have told her to leave the area and send in another nurse who was unscented. If there was not other nurse, I would have asked for the PA or doctor. If the PA/doctor wasn’t wearing perfume, I’d be all over him about their lack of fragrance free policy in a health care facility. I would have asked him if he was aware of all the people who have asthma or other respiratory conditions, cancer or other chronic illnesses or pregnant women who often can’t tolerate perfume and why would anyone in “his” hospital be allowed to work wearing it. That’s just me and of course, you may have been too sick to have the energy to fight these people. Those of us who are chemically sensitive need to have advocates to fight for us if in an emergency situation. I also do this if I must shop for clothing. I look around for the person who looks least likely to be scented, walk up to them and ask if they are wearing perfume. If they are, I ask “Who isn’t – that’s the person I need.” hahaha If they are on commission, they just lost money and money talks. Ten years ago I couldn’t find anyone fragrance-free, now there are a whole lot of people!!
Hospitals are scary places for the chemically sensitive. Besides the perfume, scented hand lotions, chemicals for procedures, and the chemicals they use to sterilize everything, hospitals are cesspools of poison. They are not places of healing, but unfortunately we rely on them for emergencies as we have no other alternative. I used to be a medical assistant…
“…of course, you may have been too sick to have the energy to fight these people…”
That was basically the size of it, MCS. As I said, I had the mask on to begin with, and didn’t realize she had anything on until after the temp-taking… at which point I HAD to take a breath, and that was all she wrote…
My husband had gone with me, and asked if I wanted him to come back to the exam room with me, but I declined (figured probably no room, I guess). He is usually my ‘canary’, letting me know if it’s safe to take off my mask, and I know he would have known right away that the nurse should not have been in there with me and would have told her so. I DID tell her – when SHE was the one who came in to start the nebulizer treatment!! – that she couldn’t be in there with me, and as soon as she handed me the thing she left. When I’m finally over this, and feeling a little stronger, I DO plan to write to the hospital which oversees that particular urgent care and let them know what happened. I’m not a ‘sue-happy’ person – have never initiated a lawsuit in my life – but if this type of thing happens too many more times, I may have to rethink that position, at least when the bills come. “You broke me – you FIX me! And I don’t expect any charge for it, either!”
I meant to update this sooner…
Thought those who are reading this blog might be interested to know that I DID get a bill from the hospital for MY portion of that disastrous urgent care visit I wrote about above. I’d called my insurance company to tell them what happened and suggested that if THEY got a bill for it, not to pay it – not that it did much good. But when MY portion of the bill arrived, I sat down and wrote a letter, explaining exactly what happened, and that the bill, as far as I was concerned, was for something that would not have been necessary if their nurse had not been wearing a highly scented product that set off my asthma attack. Other than the PA listening to me breathe – or try to – the only thing done for me there was the breathing treatment, which I had no intention of paying for – that I’d rather go to jail first! (I was a little angry after seeing that bill!)
Within a few days, I received a nice letter from the head of the hospital apologizing for my experience, explaining that they did have a fragrance policy in place (“no ‘strong’ fragrances” – which of course means different things to different people!), and that my account had been zeroed out.
One battle won, at least!
It’s the chemical, not the smell. A ton of chemicals in the ingredient “fragrance”. I have never really like perfumes but after I was exposed to chemicals, I no longer able to tolerate a majority of products that contain fragrance.
There are a whole list of reactions people have when they run into a “trigger” chemical. I wrote a blog post about initial reactions people with MCS have when they encounter a trigger
I sometimes wonder if many people feel lousy all the time and don’t know it because their body is constantly fighting reactions from the chemicals around us.
Thanks for sharing the link Stephanie, I was wondering what the reaction others get is. I get initially a feeling of heightened awareness of the ‘smell’. I am obsessed with the smell and where it might be coming from, how can I get away from it? Then I just get breathing difficulties, struggle to breath, need my inhaler and just have to get away from the smell. I have only had this a few times, once in a department store which was pumping out some kind of smell… urgh. Horrid. And to some people’s perfume… but not all. I do smell some fragrances and enjoy them, but perhaps it’s just the chemical ones as you say, that are BAD. But how do you tell? How do consumers know when buying a scent that it’s a bad one? For this to ever change to any effect for those with MCS the fragrance industry needs to stop using chemical ‘fake’ fragrances and use natural ones instead. Tackle the smell… don’t mask it with fragrance. Fabreze is a total nonsense to me. if it smells, clean it. Don’t spray it with a fake fragrance. The chemicals are coming to get us…
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
Ruth, The chemical companies will not stop making chemicals. It’s all about money. The perfume industry has even be allowed not to have to list the chemicals on their perfumes because they are legally considered “trade secrets”. If people actually knew all the chemicals that go into a perfume, I think many would stop wearing them. We’ve been lead to believe for ages that perfume is “natural”. It used to be. Some places have banned perfumes. Halifax, Nova Scotia, doesn’t not allow perfume in it’s city. Many public places are also banning them, but it’s hard to control.
You are at the point right now where you are showing overload, your reaction time is slow and your symptoms get stronger the more your breathe. For those of us who don’t have asthma, inhalers don’t work and in fact due to the chemicals used in inhalers they can actually make us worse. If you become so sensitive, your reaction time will be about two seconds if the perfume is strong enough and if you are like me, they only option is to get out of the air space. Sometimes if the perfume is so faint I can’t smell it, I’ll start coughing and my face will turn red and burn, then I’ll start gagging, then I can’t breathe. Grant, I know as soon as my face starts burning or my lungs even react a tiny bit, I need to run.
Good lord I’m writing a lot. I think all of this is on my website: http://www.multiplechemicalsurvivor.blogspot.com My early posts talk about MCS etc., my later posts are just life adjustments. The index has specific topics. Maybe some of this will help you understand.
Neighbour popped in here at the inlaws and her perfume was STRONG… She has gone now and I am the only one who can still smell her. However I am OK. For me at the moment it’s dust which I fear I will never escape from and one day I will eventually turn into dust when I die. Ironic really…
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
You need an air purifier…turn it on and it’ll clean out the air. There have been times perfumed people have walked into my house and even if I immediately ask them to leave, the stink remains. I have to leave my house, but before I do I turn on the air purifier and it all goes away. Same for dust.
I hope that one day more people will wake up to what’s happening with the fragrance industry, and the toxic ingredients being used in so many of those products today. I’ve read comments on other websites from people who have old, OLD (like 1970’s, 60’s or earlier) bottles of perfume saved that they used only on very special occasions, talking about the difference in smell between ‘old’ Chanel No. 5 and ‘new’ – it’s because the OLD perfumes were made with natural vs. synthesized chemicals. A couple of years ago, I discovered a very old bottle of ‘Evening in Paris’ in a lot-box we bought at an auction. It was my grandmother’s favorite scent. I dearly loved my grandmother, and decided I wanted to try a VERY cautious whiff… no reaction! So to answer your question, Ruth, like Stephanie and MCS I believe it’s the chemicals, not the scent. But if you tell someone – OLD ‘Evening in Paris’ doesn’t bother me – they think, well, if THAT is ok, then maybe MY stuff would be ok… (when it isn’t).
I’m convinced it’s the artificial chemicals and not the smell itself. Thanks so much Linda. Maybe me manky old perfume bottle aint so bad after all then. But how do you find out what’s in the bloomin stuff? Food needs ingredients, skin care products do, now wine and beer so maybe perfume will not be far behind. It’s amazing now I can see some wine has milk, so I can avoid those and drink a few wines no problem. Most people won’t read the labels anyway but at least those of us affected can avoid noxious things which make us ill.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
Good for you for speaking out. It sends a message. Good for you for writing a letter. Words are easily forgotten, but printed paper can be copied and forwarded.
We have all been conditioned to feel very badly about lawsuits or being “sue-happy”, but lawsuits are how laws are formed and policies made. Companies, schools, hospitals that will ignore problems of public health will all of a sudden become attentive if their money is on the line. Winning a lawsuit which isn’t as easy as television shows make it out to be, set legal precedent and legal precedent keeps people in line. The difficult part is finding a lawyer who will take your case.
Multiple Chemical Survivor says
Most of the ingredients of older perfumes prior to WWII are non-toxic. WWII changed it for us as that’s when they started experimenting with chemical warfare. Now we used those chemicals to kill bugs and perfume people. I’m sure chemical companies change formulas over the years, trying to find cheaper alternatives. Oddly enough, they use the cheaper chemicals for modern perfumes, but the price is still high. Someone is making loads of money.
Yes, it IS the chemicals, but as I mentioned before, once your system is damaged your brain will go into hyper-alert to protect you. I react to some essential oils and other strong scents. Now, who knows what the companies put into essential oils? It’s such a fad these days to claim some kind of health benefit, but one has to wonder what is not known. We are too trusting as a society.
You can’t find out what is in a scent or fragrance. The perfume companies (which have a lot of money) have legally protected themselves and are not obligated to list ingredients claiming they are “trade secrets.”
I’m going to be more proactive and vocal about this invisible disability and stir as many ignorant fools as I can. My good friends are aware of my reaction (and avoid perfumes) but still don’t understand the greater problem. HOW CAN ANYONE POSSIBLY THINK THAT PUTTING A CHEMICAL SCENT IN THE AIR IS NOT POLLUTION???
We can be as aware as possible but there are times when we’re trapped and can’t escape a confined space or ‘floater’. You know, the whiff of Lynx or some other disgusting smell a passerby has inflicted on us. Or catching a taxi and the cab has one of those horrid air scents hanging from the rear view mirror. Why? FFS! Give me au natural any day!
Multiple Chemical Survivor, thanks for your response. It’s interesting to note that others don’t necessarily smell a specific perfume but can be affected… it was the first time I was able to identify the symptoms without recognising an invasive scent.
Also, something else I’ve become aware of lately, on occasions my friends have been horrified at smelling algae in the lake or a sewerage outlet but, for me, I can’t detect any smell, offensive or otherwise. So now, after learning about the hypothalamus, I’ve decided to learn more of our sense to smell.
This link provides a researched-based site that list 10 basic facts … motivation enough to keep me exercising and getting the oxygen flowing through the blood and brain.
Another thing that helped at one stage was homeopathic ampoules that, after being allergy tested, were specifically designed for me to take over a period of a couple of months. The aim was to gradually desensitise me from the invasive smells etc. For several years, this made a significant difference. Quality of life improved somewhat (reduced sinusitis problems) but then I had the misfortune of inviting a colleague to dinner and didn’t think to re-establish the ‘no scent’ rule. The damn woman must have bathed herself in the synthetic cocktail. Unfortunately, the smell permeated my curtains and carpet for weeks!!!. The overload affected me instantly and returned the ongoing sinusitis that i’d avoided for 3 years.
As I said before, I’m really glad of this blog and the internet to help spread awareness. I wonder if people truly believe that they can’t clean a bench or a floor without using a toxic chemical. My grandmother would say… A bit of elbow grease has never hurt anyone.
Ruth Holroyd says
Thanks for your comment DM. Seems there are a lot of MCS people out there. And I haven’t worn perfume this year at all. I am not sure if I have MCS, I am certainly very aware of strong fragrances and feel the need to get away from them quickly but don’t notice a bad reaction, expect at this party that I blogged about in a crowded room being stuck with someone who had bathed in perfume. I just don’t get it. It’s a bit like this craze for febreze to mask smells – just bloomin clean the room for goodness sake. Gross is not the word.
I had my first ever (in 47 years of life) anaphylatic reaction to perfume today. I was getting my haircut and my stylist used a really smelly shampoo. While she was washing my hair the smell burned my eyes, but within a minute of sitting down and starting the cut, I realized I was getting stuffed up, and about a minute later I could feel my throat tightening and I started coughing. She quickly got me to the sink and she washed my hair again with something milder that washed off the smell and I started to feel better. Here it is nearly 12 hours later and I’m still stuffed up (I very rarely get colds) and my eyes are burning. I’ve had the eye-burning reaction before but today was over the top. It may just be an adult-onset thing, but I have also gone very “green” with home cleaners, laundry products, and personal products for the last five years and I wonder if that has increased my sensitivity. I know many others who feel violently ill when exposed to perfumes – I hope that isn’t in my future. In the meantime, we know which shampoo to avoid and which one doesn’t bother me! It was definitely scary. I felt if it continued I’d need to go to the hospital. I wonder if I am exposed to that again if my reaction will be more severe.
Ruth Holroyd says
Hi Pam, thanks for your comment. Sounds like a nightmare. The hair dressers is a bit of an assault of fragrances I should imagine. Could you take in your own shampoo next time? My salon are more than happy to oblige for me and use my own. I think they think I’m a bit weird but who cares. And what is with all the other ‘product’ the smother on your hair? We are going green here with skin care and cleaning products. Hope you are better now and haven’t had any other incidents like this one.
They have a variety of shampoos and the second one we used didn’t caused any problems at all. It smelled of peppermint, but it might have been a natural scent rather than manufactured. She knows to not put anything else in my hair, though. Last week at the grocery store the man in front of me had bathed in cologne and I had to back up about 10 feet from him to keep my eyes from burning. A lady was in line behind me and I kept hanging back, so I quietly told her, “Sorry, I’m not trying to be weird, but I’m sensitive to fragrance and the guy ahead has a strong cologne.” She smiled and said she understood. The lady behind her said she could also smell it from where she was. It was pretty bad. I had to turn my face away to breathe. On the plus side, this has been getting more attention as time goes by and there are a lot more people aware of these sensitivities now than there used to be. The weekly bulletin at my church reminds people to come scentless because there are so many who have problems with fragrance.
What a nice church to go to, Pam! That was the big thing I noticed in your second post, because I’ve had to leave – more than one church and more than one time – because of the fragrance issue. :/
Re your experience at the hairdresser – make sure you know what she used on your hair that caused the reaction, because even if she doesn’t use it on you, someone else might be using it on another patron and you would still have a problem.
I hope your problem doesn’t continue to worse, but be aware of what’s triggering you, and if the reactions become more frequent, take steps to protect yourself before your lungs are damaged. Covering your mouth and nose with your hands can help. Works even better when you have long sleeves on and can put material between you and the scent molecules. I take at least a couple of masks with me everywhere now, and have no problem anymore with wearing them. I don’t really care what people think, as long as I can breathe without having an asthma attack, I’m happy.
i don’t have it nearly as bad as any of you i just clicked this link hoping for some kind of explanation why on earth people where perfume all i know is the stuff stinks bad and everyone at school wheres it. it doesn’t smell to me at least like any kind of flower or aromatic wood it smells like a mixpot of chemicals if you must use some kind of perfume why not get a small bottle of lavender or rosewood extract put like 3 drops in water and save the rest it will last a lot longer and not stink
Hi, ileon9 – Your “…it smells like a mixpot of chemicals…” is exactly right, because that’s exactly how todays fragrance products are manufactured. Lots cheaper than the old way, with natural ingredients – and lots more toxic!
I have extreme chemical sensitivities, it has a huge impact on my day to day living, I am fed up with it, wish there was something that could cure it. Just last week my daughter’s dance teacher spoke with me very briefly her perfume was so strong I got an immediate headache, couldn’t breath and my sinus ached, it escalated to a migraine and had to have 3 days off work, the effects last weeks. Then just yesterday I was at a course, I knew I was in trouble as soon as I got there the smell of perfume was overwhelming, after about an hour I felt hot, couldnt breath, my heart was racing, my head pounding and my sinus, nasal area painful it feels like I could die (over dramatic I know, but this is how I feel) I looked pretty ill and people starting asking if I was okay I had to tell them about my problem and one lady moved away thinking it may help but it was too far gone, had to leave it was very embarrasing, took me 2 hours to drive home its usually 30 mins, I kept stopping and was feeling like was going to be sick, then on a busy stretch I couldnt stop and vomited everywhere all over myself, windscreen, seat it was awful. The pain eased off a bit and stayed in bed for the night. These effects will last now a few weeks, with heightened sensitivity to smells, light, noise etc anything could trigger it off including foods. Everyone at my work has been asked to not wear fragrance by my boss, and some people didnt speak with me for a long time. It upsets me that people dont realize how serious this problem is, but I do understand their difficulties with accepting and understanding. Its weird its inconvient and annoying for others, I understand, but to people who know me it would be nice for them to be mindful when they know they are seeing me maybe to just skip the fragrance that day, I would appreciate that alot. Most of all just wish there was a cure.:)
Hi, Kristy. If you read through some of the posts above, you will see my name on several. My comment to you is don’t wait until you’re so sick that you REALLY get sick. Like you, I used to try to be ‘polite’ to people wearing too much perfume. But that is definitely the wrong strategy, I now believe. My initial ‘sensitivity’ escalated to asthma, and now I’m reacting to things I NEVER used to react to (some deodorants, shampoos, dish detergent… if I’ve had a recent bad attack I even have to be careful of what toothpaste I use!). And a bad attack can happen anytime, anywhere, so now I carry a mask with me wherever I go (the disposable surgical kind – you can pick them up in almost any drugstore), and at the first whiff of something I know is going to set me off, I put it on, with no apology. If someone asks me – and even sometimes if NO one asks – I politely explain that I can no longer tolerate fragrance products in any way, shape or form (including body wash, scented lotions, etc.); that every attack takes a further toll on my lungs, and I prefer prevention over a visit to the ER.
Kristy – there is NO reason that, out of pure politeness, you have to remain in a situation that is going to make you ill. I wish there was a cure too – but I’m afraid people like you and I are the ‘canaries in the coal mine.’ Eventually – I hope and pray! – people will catch on to the fact that the CHEMICALS used to formulate today’s fragrance products can be downright dangerous. These aren’t your gramma’s perfumes anymore. And they are EVERYwhere! It’s just that it’s affecting some of us sooner than others. The rest? The people still wearing this crap? They’re like the people who say “What do you mean, cigarettes will kill you? I’ve smoked for 70 years and I’m still here!” Well, we know what second-hand smoke does. I’m telling you that second-hand perfume can be just as bad – and I know you know that too. If your friends have a hard time believing what it does to you, have them Google the phrase “Your perfume is killing me” – they’ll get almost a million hits! You aren’t alone – never think for a minute that you are. There are MILLIONS of us now. 🙁
Thankyou Linda for your understanding, its good to tell people that understand, unfortunately another bad incident happened today at the same course I was a few weeks ago, luckily I was able to remove myself within a short period of time, spent the day in bed again and feel like rubbish still and will prob for the rest of the week. It is getting to a point sometimes I feel like whats the use, even my husband I feel is a bit fed up with it. But on a good note my workplace is going to put up a sign, after the horrible experience a few weeks ago I decided to tell people and be more open about it, who cares what they think anyway, its my health and wellbeing at risk
Kristy, you might also want to show them this: “Toxic Perfume Ingredients Linked to Cancer, Sperm Damage
In a wildly unregulated system, companies are pouring potentially hazardous chemicals into many everyday scented products, including popular perfumes…”
If they don’t believe the info at THIS link, have them Google…
‘perfume made with toxic chemicals’
They’ll get more than HALF a million hits with THAT phrase!
Blessings on you!
It’s nice to know from reading all the comments that I’m not alone in this struggle. I started having respiratory reactions in addition to headaches about a year ago when an old coworker who bathes in her perfume was given permission to use my office when I was out for a seminar. Even after a couple of days, the smell about knocked me over when I opened the door. Following that reaction, I started having reactions to other people’s perfumes and colognes. Even going to the grocery store is difficult. The worst part of the whole situation is how my previous employer/ supervisor handled it. Even though he didn’t say it outright, he made comments that insinuated that I was making it up. While I was told that the heavy perfume coworker would not be allowed to use my office again and that I did not have to attend meetings with her, I was also told that it was illegal for management to tell her not to wear perfume and they could not have a fragrance free policy. They also said that I wasn’t to say anything to her. When I started having reactions to her perfume in the hallway when she was six feet away, my old boss said that if I couldn’t deal with perfume, I should go on disability, because everyone wears perfume, “so they don’t stink”. I’m now working for a hospital that has a fragrance free policy, which has reduced my reactions, but it still irritates me that some people are so insensitive to this issue.
People just don’t get it, but it’s interesting when ONE particular coworker is causing most of your breathing problems. What is it in SOME perfumes that triggers this reaction? I cant’ seem to find out. We should make a list of perfumes on a hit list that are the very worst. I can even tell when one of my colleagues has used the phone on my desk – the scent lingers on my phone even. But I’m not so bad at the moment. I’m just very aware I don’t like smells, they don’t currently affect my breathing too bad. Is it only a matter of time?
Andrea – check this out – and maybe print it out for your nasty employer! 🙂
Hopefully some of you are still checking comments here.
I have asthma, and ‘perfume sensitivity.’ This takes 2 forms.
The first form is a true perfume sensitivity and usually causes a sharp, piercing headache. This is easily avoided and remedied.
The second form is not even an allergy to any of the ‘fragrances’ but to a dye used in the carrier (lotion, spray, shower gel, etc.). I am allergic to the dye Yellow #5. This is also known as tartrazine, and recently is sometimes labeled as CI19140 on cosmetics.
Yellow #5 is in EVERYTHING. When Doritos were made ‘better tasting’ a few years ago, all they did was add Yellow #5. Foods, soaps, shampoos and 90% of scented products contain Yellow #5. This makes leaving my home an ordeal of the highest degree.
My only sure-fire ‘remedy’ so far, is to buy a face mask that has a hepa and a charcoal filter. I can wear the mask comfortably, all day, and never smell a thing and never have a reaction.
(for the curious, my reactions to breathing in Yellow #5 include wheezing, feeling cold and clammy, sleepiness, extreme mental fog, mild loss of coordination (like what happens when you’re really tired) slight blurred vision, hoarseness in my voice, coughing)
The only other remedy for me is water. Yellow #5 is water soluble. So, when I’ve been out and about, if I’ve run into Yellow #5, immediately upon arriving home, I remove my clothes and wash them, then I hop in the shower. Instant relief, and my home remains a safe place.
I’ve been lucky in the past few years to have worked in jobs where I was the only woman, so no scents around me. However, I recently got a new job that I couldn’t pass up. Bad news is that it’s in a big office, with a lot of women and a considerable amount of fragrance.
I’m on day 3 of employment, and I’m going to try a cool-mist humidifier in my cubicle to see if that helps. I’m also thinking of getting some plants for my desk that are known for their air cleaning potential. I really hate being the new person and then going around to ask everyone to stop wearing their scented lotions, it feels like such an imposition and I get really embarrassed and feel guilty. Hopefully these measures will work well enough to give me some time to get to know my new co-workers and ease into a conversation about my allergy. And hopefully I may help someone here with my suggestions/experience
Hi, Lisa. Glad you found your way here. It’s a good place for info and finding others who understand and sympathize with the fragrance/chemical issues many of us have.
RE your current situation, the first question that comes to mind is whether you were upfront with your new employer about your health issues before you took the job? If not, it probably IS going to be hard to talk with people about not wearing scented lotions etc. around you.
Your ideas about the humidifier and plants are good ones; my suggestion would be to also bring the HEPA filter mask to work and use it if necessary, because when you get right down to it, your health is a lot more important than any job!
I have to admit that I was not up front with my issues. I have never been able to muster up the courage to do so. I always fear that disclosing an issue like this could cause them to dismiss me as a candidate.
A small ray of hope is that as I was filling up the humidifier this morning, a co-worker from a different department asked about it and she said that she also has sensitivity to fragrance. So, if I work up the courage to say something to someone in authority about it, I may not have to be alone.
Anyway, I do want to let you know that I was able to position the humidifier so that the mist gently wafted towards my face and it did improve my breathing and my symptoms! Bad news is that the garden center next door did not have any of the plants I was looking for, so that will be my weekend project. 😀
Good luck and yes, if your colleague is willing to stand with you it will be easier for you. Your employer has a duty of care to listen to your concerns and act upon them to ensure you’re safety at work. I hope you get some help from them. Keep us updated.
Thanks for the comment. You’re always welcome here amongst us scent averse peeps. I don’t get such a bad reaction and so far only to certain very strong scents but it has me on alert now and I am very aware myself. I used to wear some perfume when I went out but I don’t now and especially not at work, though some colleagues seem to be wafting perfume everywhere at work I’ve so far been OK. One girl wears so much that if you need to use her phone for any reason the handset wreaks of perfume. Urgh! Why?
Just one comment, ‘the only woman so no scents’ may not always be true. I have worked with some men who bathe in aftershave. It’s not just women you need to be concerned about.
Thanks for sharing and while it feels like I am powerless to help you at least we know we are not alone.
HI there, I have commented previously about my struggles, I am glad Im not the only one out there suffering them this problem. For me I feel it may be getting to the stage I may have to stop working.
My problem is at work. My boss is good and has had a poster made up telling everyone not to wear perfume, which I appreciate. I have had to go home several times in the past few weeks due to fragrances from people. Now I dont expect people to change for me, I know its a hassle they cant wear their poison that makes me violently ill for days even weeks. I wish they would realise with them putting on perfume, fragrant body lotion, hand cream, hair products etc will make someone else very ill and unable to function. A slip up or the attitude she cant dictate what I can and cannot wear has serious consequences for myself.
I approach the subject very carefully, in particular the lady I sit next too, pretends she is considerate but I suspect she is at times purposely wearing fragrances, when I ask her she gets very defensive and says no its just my usual soap, which is a lie because if it was her usual soap I wouldnt have a problem, so I sit and try to work at my desk for as long as I can I put the fan on me and sometimes I have to go home and other days I make it through the day and then have to go to bed and am off for a couple of days. So Im out of pocket too and dont get paid due to other people!
I really dont know what else to do, apart from leave my job. I feel reluctant to do so because even through I am still having problems most of the staff are considerate and it would be a very big risk going into another workplace where there maybe more perfume lovers who are not understanding. People seem to get so offended and put out, I get it I really do but I cant help it, I wish I wasnt like this but I am.
Has anyone else been in this situation, and what did you do. I really dont know anymore, and its getting worse and have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and feel really anxious about what the day at work will be like and will there be any smells. Thankyou fr being understanding and listening to my whinge, feel quite desperate.
I have experienced the same issue at my previous place of employment. Unlike you, my boss was not understanding and I was perceived as the problem. It actually resulted in me being “let go” for no longer being a good fit. However, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me because where I work now has a no perfume/ fragrance policy. Plus, I couldn’t ask for better people to work for and with and my significant pay increase is a definite bonus.
If working where you do now is affecting your health, then my recommendation is to at least check into other job options. You might be able to find a place of employment that has a no fragrance policy or maybe there is something that you could do at home.
Andrea thanks so much for replying I’m sorry you had that experience it mustn’t have been very nice time at all. I would love to get another job and to work from home would be ideal, I’m wondering when looking for a new job were you upfront about your condition, or did you wait until you were in the job, I’m also wondering what sort of workplaces would have this policy in place, maybe I could try to seek employment in certain industries, thank you ??
I wasn’t upfront about my fragrance sensitivity when I interviewed for my current job, but I already knew that they had a no fragrance policy at that time. When I had my appointment with employee health, I disclosed it then and there wasn’t a problem. I work at a hospital now, but I know that our local health department has the same no fragrance policy. You can call human resources at larger companies to find out if they have a no fragrance policy for employees.
I have noticed since I’m no longer exposed to the fragrance irritant on a regular basis as I was at my previous employment, that my reactions have decreased and aren’t as severe when I do come into contract with perfume/ cologne.
Hang in there and good luck with finding work that better meets your needs.
I also work in a hospital, in an office setting, that has a no scent policy. However, in August, a new supervisor was hired and wears the worst perfume. I mentioned, upon meeting her, the no scent policy, but she continued wearing it. I actually got hives from it, which I’ve never had before, as well as many of the other typical symptoms. Even prescribed high dose of prednisone. This is ridiculous because I work in Pulmonary. I’ve told HR and they said they’d tell her the policy but she’s still wearing it, so they told me to contact Disability.
I’ve been waiting on Disability Services almost a month with regards to getting accommodations (working from home if she comes in my office, have her supervisor be my supervisor) as she straight up won’t stop wearing the perfume/scented product and it is causing me a myriad of medical issues and decreasing my quality of life. I’m really worried I’m going to be essentially punished for this (forced to use sick leave instead of work from home, or essentially just told to suck it up). What has happened for others?
Jane I totally understand about your problems at work. It’s great your work has a no fragrance policy but unfortunate this woman is not abiding by it. My work has made a policy because of me but still it happens, just last week on the same day two people wore perfume and I had to go home and not get paid, they both thought they had valid reasons for wearing it as their big boss was coming to see them from interstate, I told my boss unfortunatly my intolerance doesn’t allow for special occasions. It’s totally not fiat that we have to use our leave and not get paid because of others, I am thinking next time it happens to me I am going to protest. It’s a bit of a worrisome time for me at work because another company has brought us and we are merging with them meaning more people, more smells. And they are mostly sales men who will prob wear fragrance, I find men’s aftershave and deodorant particularly bad. I have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia which is prob the reason for my extreme chemical sensitivities . I really hope you find a solution, working from home would be great, I wish I could do that, good luck
Chris Garman says
It is, from our perspective, the same to wear scent to work as it is to put peanut butter and oyster juice on all of the door knobs for people with those allergies. You are being assaulted by these people. Perhaps putting it in a perspective they can understand will help. Here in Canada there is reasonable accommodation legislation providing you can prove your condition. I wish I knew how to do that because my work won’t do fragrance free without proof.
Heather Goodenough says
I too have a severe reaction to alcohol based perfumes. My lungs feel like they are closing off as if my body would rather not breathe at all. I did some research and found that a big problem is the phthalates in most alcohol based perfumes is a very harmful chemical. Studies have shown that phthalates are linked to autism in babies whose mothers wore perfume during pregnancies. They have also been linked to cancer. It’s sad that America doesn’t educate the public on the dangers of perfume because it is a big money making business. While in Mexico on vacation I noticed that the women’s scents did not bother my allergies and it was explained to me that it’s because they wear natural oils instead of alcohol based synthetic perfumes. Even the airports have made a ruling that no employee wear alcohol based perfumes or colognes because people from other countries could not breathe on de-boarding. Hospitals have also adapted the ‘no perfume’ rule because of asthma patients. I would like to know where I can join the fight to force perfume companies to switch to oil based scents.
I came upon this article when searching for information of my fragrance sensitivities and I had no idea that so many people are affected by this! I dont wear perfume or any lotions because my sensitivity has always been pretty bad. It is usually just my nose itching uncontrollably or my eyes watering, but somethings my throat begins to burn and I even feel like I can’t swallow or my throat is closing up. Does anyone here know anything about having sensitivities to essential oils though? I’m taking about oils that do not have synthetic fillers or anything similar. I use essential oils for numerous things…diffusing, cleaning, etc. Most of the time I have no issues at all with them but I’ve found that certain ones cause me to have similar reactions that the chemical filled fragrances do. Is it possible that I could be sensitive to the actual plant?That is the only thing I can think of, but I would really like to find out if anyone else has experienced this.
If the essential oil has a smell, then I react to it…
I am 39 years old and I react to smells like purfumes, cig smoke, car exhaust, campfire smoke, some cleaners, and strong plastic odors. I’ve had this as long as i can remember, and now know why I came home from High School with headaches every day. Every girl there was wearing perfume. I also now know it severely affected my performance. Who wants to do schoolwork with a headache.?? I now get reactions like inflammation in my sinuses, runny burning eyes, and I yawn a lot. I want to know if anyone else yawns like every 5 to 10 minutes when an irritant is present.
Hi, Tiffany – You can check out my other posts above to see my allergy story. Headaches didn’t used to be part of my ‘reaction’, but have become so recently (last 12 to 15 months). Eyes burning, yes, sometimes they get swollen too. Yawning – oh ABSOLUTELY!! FREQUENT yawning after exposure, and especially if I’ve not gotten away soon enough and wind up coughing and wheezing.
I remember reading somewhere that yawning is a sign your body needs more oxygen. Go figure, right?
Chris Garman says
I get the yawns too. I figured it coincided with my blood pressure falling off the face of the earth. Once I get out of the scent, I get hungry, like starving to death hungry.
Chris Garman says
If anyone knows how to obtain proof of a scent sensitivity, please let me know so I can get reasonable accommodation at work.
Hi Chris, I don’t know of a way of getting a scent sensitivity diagnosed. Does anyone else? If I find out I will share the info on here.
I’d Ike to know as well. Mine was the very first comment on this thread. My reactions are getting worse and I find being at work causing the most issue. I think some people are purposefully exposing me to their chiral perfume shower. I am working on an ADA accommodation to work from home. The most frustrating thing is the lack of awareness/treatment in the medical community. I see a Pulminologist, dermatologist, allergist, ENT, now consulting for a headache specialist all because no one treats for perfume / fragrance sensitivity. I have nodules in my lungs, rashes on my legs, face, and torso, severe skin burning, migraies, and respiratory distress. I thought it was interesting that someone mentioned the ban in Nova Scotia. I am a first generation American. My father was born and moved here from Nova Scotia of Irish decent.
I really hope things do get better for you. That sounds awful. Things are bad enough getting see by an allergy specialist, something I still haven’t managed to do yet but I will. Not sure what the answer is but for you, working from would seem to be the answer short term but why should you have to? Surely people could be asked not to wear perfume?
RUTH KEMP says
Hello and greetings to everyone,
I hope you won’t mind me posting on here, as I realise that this is an American site, and I am from England. The truth is that I am so pleased that I have found this community, as my life is being totally ruined also by my severe asthmatic reaction to all perfumes and aftershaves, my lungs and nose completely close up from it, and it has got so bad because over here, practically everybody thinks it is acceptable to wear overpowering scents and aftershaves 24/7, the kind that you can smell from ten miles away. Since having blood clots on both my lungs four years ago, my asthma has become way more severe, and it has got to the point where I am so reactive to perfume that I have to spend most of the time stuck indoors as I am made really ill every single time I venture outdoors. I have so much empathy for every single person who has posted in this community, as I too experience the nasty things you have had with your health and I understand just how selfish others can be with their fragrances. Life is certainly really depressing with this horrid issue and there isn’t much help out there for us either. I feel comforted to know that there is other people out there that understand, I send love to you all.
Hi Ruth, this is an English site not an American one, though lots of my readers are from the USA and the more the merrier. Thanks for sharing and sorry to hear you are struggling. There is a society called the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity society. I’ll try find their link for you. They might be able to help, even if it’s just knowing you are not alone.
In 1986, I kept getting the flu over and over for months, and was unable to work. An environmental allergist diagnosed me with chemical sensitivity, and multiple new allergies. I spent 6 months unable to read print unless sealed under glass, could not be in traffic, could not work with wood, or petroleum products. It took 8 years before I recovered a portion of health, and that took changing occupation, household chemicals, and avoiding enclosed public places until I got well enough to enjoy restaurants and movies if I was careful. That does not mean I would not get sick with a dab of fragrance, but I could recover in a day instead of weeks or months. I had a decade of increased social involvement.
2 years ago, I pushed too far trying to stay social, and I became more sensitive and remained sick longer again. Several people with a dab was all it took. Isolation takes a toll, and giving up public events like weddings, funerals, religion, etc., is painful. People think they’re helping if they limit the use of strong fragrances, let it wear off later in the day, or use natural scents. While fragrance free or hypoallergenic products have became available over the years, the air fresheners, deodorizers, etc are still widely used in public. While smoke free areas abound, there are few true fragrance free or similar zones.
Psychologically over 30 years, this has the same effect as racial discrimination, bullying, and if bad enough, solitary confinement. Recordings and reports of public events are no substitute for human contact. By not providing safe areas, announcements, signs, notices, and information about how products and people have helped, even if a majority refrain, just a few can undo all their kind efforts.
Just a couple things that helped most, eliminating chemicals in bedding laundry, air ionizer and vacuuming, icanbreathe.com, go out in public or eat during off hours, and especially value good friends who understand.
You really can’t force other people to do what helps those sensitive to chemicals. Inviting help can even be futile many times. Even so, awareness of the problem may eventually help like the equal rights or handicapped issues improved the lives of many.
While I usually try not to ruminate how this has affected my life, and don’t usually comment, I really appreciated this discussion.
Thanks for the comment. It’s one of those silent conditions. Because those with the fragrance allergy or senstivity generally have to remove themselves from society to stay healthy, people don’t understand, see the effects and understand the consequences of wearing strong fragrances. I wonder what the long term effects will be on these people who seemingly CAN wear fragrances… it must be damaging their bodies too. Will it lead to problems later for them? Truly silent and dangerous. Thinking of you. Maybe one day there will be fragrance free areas. We can dream.
catherine freet says
One thing I dread is the holidays and shopping. I just had to almost run out of a store because I walked in and my lungs immediately started closing up and I was having a major coughing fit from the dreaded cinnamon pinecones. Cinnamon usually doesn’t bother me. I am assuming those are artificially scented. I hate when people look at me like I am sick and contagious because I start coughing. I can be in line at the grocery store and someone gets in line behind me and I started hacking like I am on my deathbed. Once I was seated at my child’s school performance and had to get up and leave my nice spot because someone sat behind me doused in perfume. It really isn’t fair. I miss out on a lot because I avoid situations where I might be stuck. I also get vertigo (unrelated) and the worst in when staff in the ER wear heavy scents.
I really feel for you. It must be awful. So far I’ve only had very mild reactions to very strong perfumes and not all. The other day I walked into the loo at work and someone had obviously had a good old spray with something. I had to go into the other cubicle. It doesn’t affect me breathing so much but I makes me want to run and get away from the smell. I’m hoping it doesn’t get worse for me. I don’t wear perfume or scented skincare products myself. I wonder if people just don’t know how it affects some of you guys? Must be hard. I have left a store to get away from the scent they were pumping around. their loss! I’ll buy my clothes somewhere else 🙂
At last, I’ve finally found others who also suffer like me with a reactive airway. I’ve been wanting to spread the message to those that aren’t affected in a non-preachy way (always switches people off) but in a factual way. I’ve wanted statistics to quote like ‘did you know 12345599 people in the UK have an instant allergic reaction to artificial fragrances, perfumes, smells pumped into shops (AAAAGGH in the UK its increasing so fast ). When my airways is reactive then even someone leaving a door ajar and a different temperature coming into wherever I am can set me off again.
One thing that has helped me is being given Singulair – its a leukatrine inhibitor. Without that I wasn’t able to barely function. It has another name so if anyone would like it please shout. It doesn’t stop all my over reactivity but it dampens down a huge amount of it. Before I had it I had to wear a sort of snood/balaclava thing (much to the shock or hilarity of friends who didnt understand) and once the counter staff at the bank jumped backwards thinking I was about to rob the bank! Now I just carry small masks with me (essential on an aeroplane) and always always wear a scarf (cotton in summer) or have one in my bag to use if perfume hits me.
Someone mentioned sitting down at an event and a person sitting behind them with perfume. Yep, that happened to me only a few weeks ago and even my scarf could not contain it so I had to move – she must have bathed in a tub of perfume.
I think we need to educate the world, not in a preachy way (as it just puts people off and they just think we are odd – we cant help it and they might be in the same position soon anyway) but in a factual way. I’d like to start a Twitter account purely to do this (need to think of a name – so suggestions please). I need other people like yourselves preferably to follow me to back it all up. I’m going to look for more followers who are affected (Ive already got one or two on my normal everyday twitter account). I want to contact companies on it like shops who have smelly things in teh air and my worst offender – flipping old Stanstead Airport – where you HAVE to walk through the entire Duty Free, in a windy path that goes on and on, as soon as you’ve passed passport control. There is no other way to get to board your plane. It stinks so bad I struggled to breathe on the plane last time and in fact I had my scarf around my face (forgot to put the mask on) and an armed policeman stared at me like I was a threat. (no, a massse perfume stink out was the threat). Id like to campaign to people in general and companies by educating them. I’d like facts and articles to link them to – ones that would make them think again. Would you like to join me? Help me link articles , do you have any stats and if you can come up with a name for the twitter account all suggestions will be considered (sensible ones obviously). Though funnily enough sometimes humour helps so an acronym for STINK would be quite amusing…any ideas?
Sorry to ask this straight away but ive been wanting to do this for 2 years now and so relieved to find others are on the net despately asking to be heard.
I look forward to your replies.
ps: This would be purely about reactive airways and perfumes/sprays/smells etc. I appreciate you already blog and twitter yourself btw re allergies etc. xx Happy to link you in and hopefully vice versa?
I was thinking maybe Acronym SPRAYS – I’ve got got part way and just need the ending. I was thinking it could stand for Smells, Perfumes, Reactive Airways, (then I just need a Y or a Y and an S). Any thoughts?
So pleased to discover I’m not alone in this problem! I’ve just set up a new Twitter account with the intention of spreading awareness (in a non preachy way – as that just puts people off) of the problems we encounter. Ideally I’d like to target shops with artificial smells (why are they increasing so much?!) modern perfume wearers and my biggest bugbear Stansted Airport. Have any you got any further than passport control?! You HAVE to go through the middle of Duty Free – down a windy path which goes on for far too long. Women who work there are armed with weapons of mass breathing destruction – yes, perfume! Squirting away rending me unable to breathe on an aeroplane! Its the only way to get to departures!! Anyway, please support us, come visit us and follow us on Twitter at ScentFree@ChemicalMaskUK. I’d love some links to good articles or some stats or anything you can help with. Nic
Oh, Catherine, those pine cones are the worst! I had forgotten about them until last week when I entered my regular store and was assaulted by the strong scent. Somebody must have complained, because they have been moved outside. I can handle holding my breath for a few seconds until I get inside!
I hear what you are saying but I am also a fellow allergy sufferer. Cigarette smoke. Perfume. Dogs. Cats. Everything. But I cannot dictate how other people live their lives. And neither can you. Yes, it sucks. Yes. We have to deal with it. But people are going to wear perfume and you complaining about it is not going to do a damn thing except make peope perpetuate the stereotype of the weakling allergy ridden sickling. Either live in a bubble or figure out a way to live in the real world. We are not delicate flowerhs. We are real people who are not defined by our perceived weaknesses.
As MANY of us on this thread have said – it’s not the fragrances, it’s the DANGEROUS combination of chemicals that combine to produce those fragrances. SYNTHETIC chemicals, most of the time these days. Dogs and cats – you can be immuniized for allergies to them, and they won’t kill you. Cigarette smoke can, and almost every state I have been in over the last few years has laws against smoking indoors in public places – BECAUSE it can kill you. The molecules in many fragrance products are just as dangerous as second-hand smoke. Educate yourself.
Good for you having that attitude and not dictating to others what they can do. A minority shold never dictate the majority what to do. There are people who are sensitive to noise and light, some even claim magnetism. They have to learn to live with their condition and not try to erase the thing that is their weakness from the face of the earth. I don’t believe fragrance affects and kills the majority of people so you can’t compare it to cigarette smoke where there is a lot of scientific data showing cigarette smoke kills for certainty.
I understand that you have a horrible condition but I’m not going to stop using perfume, ever. I’m still going to keep using fragranced lotions and soap even if some would like to erase fragrance from public places all together. You’re the one with the problem and the rest of the world don’t have to accomodate. A world without perfume would not be a pleasant place. I understand that you might need some special arrangements in a workplace but even then some people with fragrance sensitivities have quite the demand list on others. I don’t think it’s appropriate to demand someone change their shampoo or laundry detergent. You’re crossing over to private arena there.
But why would you wish to poison yourself with known carcinogens? In what way does surrounding yourself with neurotoxins improve your life? Or your children’s lives?
And how do you know you won’t be the next one to develop sensitivity and get a reaction?
It certainly is not your fault the perfume industry has gone they way of cheap & hazardous ingredients. But in purchasingscented products you’re rewarding them with your dollars.
Some of the people on here are experiencing major health emergencies and significant loss of income. Many others are made ill more mildly & temporarily, but the common thread is that repeat exposures accumulate & the course of symptoms is not controllable.
Jenna is a mong says
You don’t have to accommodate anything, you just need to stop inflicting your habits on everyone around you, you miserable little sh*t. Would you tolerate smokers blowing smoke in your face, or a dog barking at you 24/7?
Ruth Holroyd says
I guess we’re asking you to show some compassion and empathy and put yourselves in our shoes just for one day. Imagine if everywhere you went you couldn’t breathe because of everyone wearing perfumes and fragrances. In some cases it can be a severe reaction. Should these people remain housebound and miss out on life? And as one comments below, consider also the affect all these artificial man made unnecessary perfumes could be having on your body. You may not see it now but are they good for you? I would question whether they are. good for anyone. Just putting that out there.
New Yorker says
I am an American who’s been suffering from this allergy for ages, and attacks have only gotten worse over time because of today’s increasing narcissism and lack of life skills and social graces. Back in the day, perfume was only used sparingly and for special occasions, You were supposed to just dab a touch behind the ear and only wear it if you were going to a formal event, like a wedding, party, church or romantic dinner. If you wanted to “smell nice” for other occasions, then you used scented powder or deodorant.
Now people are practically dousing themselves in perfume and wearing it for any time, any place, and it makes absolutely sense. Why are people wearing perfume to work? On the bus for some grocery errand? Even at the doctor’s office? I once suffered a major attack at a doctor’s appointment because someone decided that in the dead of winter, they needed to wear perfume to “smell nice” for the doctor. What on earth for?
For those of you reading all this rolling your eyes thinking, “I don’t care; you’re just a freak for having this allergy, so screw you,” you don’t get it: perfume is causing these severe reactions because of toxic chemicals. Just because you’re not affected doesn’t mean that it’s not affecting you, either. I have a crazy sister who can spray a bottle of full-strength cleaning solutions all over the house and happily inhale the toxic fumes without blinking an eye while I and other members of the households are coughing and gagging. We open the windows to let the toxic fumes. She, on the other hand, doesn’t even consider the possibility. Who is going to develop asthma, cancer or some other illness in the future? Not us.
So, don’t think it’s a badge of honor to be able to wear this perfume unaffected or look down on those of us who are. And for all you know, as you continue to douse yourself in this crap, you may develop a sensitivity yourself even far worse than us. I haven’t heard of any cases of people falling into anaphylactic shock from this allergy, but why take the chance and be one of the first?
Ruth Holroyd says
Hi New Yorker! You are so correct, whilst we feel the side effects now we avoid these noxious fumes. What is the long term effect of breathing in all
These fumes? I dread to think. I’m not too bad but my body definitely recoils from many fragrances and I get wheezy. Don’t wear any myself. So expensive too! You shouldn’t need to wear it or fragrance tour clothes if you wash and keep clean