Are Scents Making You Sick?

My Fragrance Sensitivity

Scent Sensitivity
Scent Sensitivity.

I have one of those hypersensitive noses. You know, the kind of noses that doesn't miss a single passing whiff. It doesn't matter if it is pleasant or offensive it never goes unnoticed. In my home there is no silent "cutting of the cheese" by family members that is overlooked. The cooking aromas from our kitchen are just as likely to awaken an appetite (warm cinnamon toast) as to bring about nausea (boiled wieners). I dislike hot dogs unless they are charbroiled and burnt-black. It depends on what the odor is whether or not it is absorbed into my nostrils as a welcome pleasantry or undesirable intruder.
But basically, I view many smells as intruders in my life. Even the scents that most people enjoy can be bothersome because I don't get to experience them in a subtle manner. With my increased sensitivity to scents it feels at times like I've been walloped over the head with a baseball bat at times when I encounter certain smells. For example: The scent from a bouquet of lilacs are sickening sweet to me. A bouquet of daffodils smell like mold on week old yeasty bread. Does that mean I don't like flowers? No, I love flowers and also enjoy working with my hands in the soil in my garden. I can normally tolerate smells more in the open air than in closed quarters. On the other hand, I enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass if I'm sitting indoors next to the window, but if I'm the one mowing the yard my nostrils will hurt from the overwhelm of it. The smell of burning leaves in the autumn.... oh forget it, my sinuses will cringe, my eyes burn and tear up regardless of where I'm at.
One of the most offensive scent-intrusions I have experienced are those perfumed sample card advertisements placed inside magazines. My sister thoughtfully gifted me with a subscription to a women's magazine a few years ago. It would arrive sealed in plastic. Upon opening it the impact of potent perfumes would cause me to immediately tear out the offensive sniff-card inserts and dump them into the trash can stored outside. I would flip the leaves of the magazine into the air as I walked back into the house. Next, I would thoroughly wash my hands and face to free my senses from the assault that had just taken place. I would not pick up the magazine to read for another day or two until the smells had faded somewhat from its pages. After a time I called the company to be put on a special subscription list.
Most magazine publishers will happily send their subscribers copies of their publications without these perfumed inserts upon special request.

Avoiding Public Places Where Perfumes Are Prevelant

I fear getting stuck sitting next to someone in an aircraft who is wearing musk or patchouli oil ... oh gag!! If this ever happens be assured that I'll be asking the flight attendant for a different seating arrangement. A few years ago at the ballet I was unlucky enough to be seated next to a woman who was saturated in a cologne that I personally found bothersome. My husband traded seats with me so I wasn't right beside her, but it still made for a miserable evening for me. The tickets were quite pricey and I didn't want to miss the show so I challenged myself to endure an uncomfortable situation. Usually I avoid going to shows and concerts that require assigned seating for this very reason. I don't expect people to change their habits of using their favorite colognes and toiletries every day. But I wish more people would consider not using them when they know they are going to be confined in spaces such as theatres, airplanes, buses, etc., that don't have healthy ventilation. This is probably why I prefer taking the stairs over riding an elevator as well, heavy scents linger.<br/>I usually breeze by perfume counters in department stores as quickly as possible to avoid itchy eyes and puffy hive breakouts from contact with certain chemicals in the air. Although when I want to pick up a new lipstick I'll brave the atmosphere. I almost got questioned by the store detective once at our Target store. The man was suspiciously watching me opening the lids of shampoos and lotions. It is my habit to sniff before I buy. He must have watched me long enough to realize that I wasn't sampling the products, only smell testing, because he left me be.
I try to laugh as often as I can about these things. I don't particularly like having a hypersensitive nose. But since there is not much I can do about it, I try my best to blend into the world with all its wondrous and hideous smells without taking it personally. The other day while I was browsing Blockbusters a heavily cologned man came into the establishment. WOW, one whiff of him almost blew me away. What did I do? I left the store right away. I decided an old classic film on the tube was good enough for me. On another day I might have decided to put up with his smell long enough to rent a film, it's my choice. For those of us with hypersensitive noses, we are often confronted with these types of choices everyday.

Using Perfumes Sparingly

On a rare occasion I will wear cologne myself. I place a scant portion on a cotton ball and will then dab it ever so softly on my ankles. If I'm careful not to use too much the light lifting scent from my feet to my nose can be quite lovely.

Zinc Deficiency Linked with Loss of Smell

People who tend to over-spray themselves with cologne may do so due to a zinc deficiency that affects their sense of smell. Zinc supplements of 50mgs of zinc daily can help return taste and smell senses to normal. 20%-25% of smell and taste problems are zinc-related according to University of Tennessee study researcher, Thomas Namey M.D.

How To Be Sensitive to Other People's Scent Sensitivities

Please be considerate to anyone you know who is sensitive to certain smells when you are planning to spend time with them or are going to be in close proximity of them. Do not wear any colognes, musks, scented body lotions, hair products, etc. that are bothersome to them during these occasions.

Smells Invade Personal Air Space

Also, if you are going to be in any public places where you will be around people who you do not know please consider the possibility that such chemical scents emitting from your body may offend someone's sensitivities. Certain scents can bring about allergic reactions, asthma attacks, trigger migraines and headaches, or nausea in people who have multiple chemical sensitivity. The inhalation of some chemical fumes from scented products, including air fresheners, can be just as problematic for some people as secondhand smoke, if not more harmful.

Places to Avoid Wearing Colognes and Perfumes

  • Public Transportation: buses, subways, airplanes
  • Shared Commutes: Taxis, carpools, etc.
  • Shopping: Supermarkets, indoor malls, restaurants and taverns.
  • Entertainment Venues: Movie theaters, concerts, art shows, sports arenas.
  • Waiting Rooms: Hospitals, doctor's offices, DMV, courtrooms, etc.
  • Tourist Spots: Museums, visitor centers, etc.
  • Workplace: Convention halls, confined office and work spaces, etc.
  • In the Classroom: Schools, meeting places, any class participation where you will be in close proximity to others (crochet class, photography class, meditation class, book clubs, etc.).
  • At the Gym: Indoor tracks, on the court, in the weight room, exercise classes, and so on.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.