Symptoms of my fragrance sensitivity/allergy/whatever

This is an edited version of a page on my other blog, Sherri Blossoms, where I tell a bit about my story and list my symptoms.


I’ve brought up my symptoms to doctor after doctor, and the most common response is one of dismissal. To be dismissed by your doctor is disheartening, to say the least. They just don’t know about this problem.

So here I’ll list the chronic symptoms which I’ve recently been able to directly link to my exposure of fragrance. Don’t forget that your symptoms may not match up perfectly with mine.

  • sinus pressure
  • migraine headaches
  • eye fatigue
  • blurry vision
  • asthma-like symptoms
  • sore throat
  • inability to concentrate (such as not being able to follow a conversation or read a book or follow a movie plot.)
  • dizziness

All these symptoms seemed to worsen throughout the day, and especially while shopping. I thought I just had no stamina, now it’s apparent that the exposure to chemicals wore me down. I got an inhaler for the asthma, nasal spray for the sinus pressure, migraine drugs for the headaches, glasses for the blurry vision. None of these things helped much, if any. I felt stupid when interacting with others because I couldn’t speak intelligently with them.


It’s much nicer to be able to recognize the symptoms for what they are, rather than hypochondria or weakness or idiocy. I haven’t brought it up with my doc yet, because I’m broke. And I don’t think he’ll be able to help, since it seems about the only thing one can do is avoid the offending chemical(s). But when I do see him, I’ll have plenty of subjective data to present, and hopefully he won’t dismiss me. I don’t think he will.


17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mason on September 23, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    It’s certainly a problem that requires a few life changes. Coming to terms with it is a struggle.
    It’s highly important to know what/where is hurting you. Carbon monoxide is one of the bad ones, as it can be difficult to detect with scent. I recommend finding an environmental engineer to investigate any locations you are at often (home, work) for a potential carbon monoxide leak (it’s not uncommon, and can be a big problem).
    I recently bought a lot of hepa type filters, and recommend you do the same.
    I also found out my mother has the same problem, and so do several of my friends.
    I live in Santa Cruz California, and typically I am a habitual marijuana user. It does not make any symptoms go away, but rather makes them extremely tolerable. It’s not for everybody, but it helps me.

    Good luck.

  2. I’m wondering … there’s so much in the media today about asthma, ADHD, and autism being on a dramatic rise, and I wonder if any of those things might be connected to fragrance and/or chemicals in the products we use. Have you done any research to find out how prevalent a problem it is to be allergic to fragrance chemicals? Has ANYone done any research into this possibility?

  3. I wondered the same thing, Fal. I haven’t googled it, but i know you will. I’m stirring soap right now, so I can’t. Will you tell me if you find anything? 🙂

  4. It’s never hypochondria if you feel that bad. I also have these problems. I’m wary of fragrance, but I noticed that once I went gluten and dairy free, I’m not as bad.~~Dee

  5. […] I’ve been unable to completely get rid of my symptoms, though they are much improved with the efforts I’ve made to ensure that at least my home is […]

  6. Posted by Julie on November 19, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    I researched this problem because I have severe allergies to scents and chemicals, like bleech and other normal household cleaners. All I could find was to see an allergist. The treatment is long and expensive, but that’s all that seems to be offered. I use ALL products as near scent free as I can find. Normal folks just don’t realize how difficult it is and in my case, even life threatning to be exposed to their fragrant extravigances, even in my own home where I mostly confine myself due to the allergies. If you find an answer, let me know, let the world know.

  7. For the past 3 years I have been experiencing excruciating pain on the right side of my face, beginning at the cheek area. This pain may last 20 seconds or up to 3 hours. The pain is nearly unbearable and no pressure point seems to relieve it.
    I sought medical help. My first was to the dentist. No problems. Second to my family doctor who referred me to an ENT physician. He did an MRI (nothing found)and “suggested” it was probably trigeminal nueralgia (although the syptoms did not support this). He sent me to a neurologist. He gave me some anti-seizure medication (which didn’t work) and now he’s lost.
    I have tried to isolate what may trigger these episodes which occur daily. Although difficult to pin point, it seems that when I am exposed to certain fragrances, the sinus to the right of my nose swells and perhaps pushes on a nerve. My doctors don’t buy this at all and completely discount my “self diagnosis” I’m at my wits end on how to “fix” a very debilitating problem. Any thoughts? or easy cures?

  8. Oh, wow, I wish I had an easy cure. I was actually going to do a post on steps to take to determine whether or not you are sensitive to fragrance, but I’m sick right now and would only make a mess of it. So to get you started, I’d recommend getting a couple of big boxes or grocery bags, and putting every single thing you can think of that might have scent in it- candles, cleaners, shampoo, love letters, air fresheners, etc- and take the whole pile outside. Store it somewhere else for a couple of days, or shut it up in one room and then don’t go in there. I saw an immediate improvement, and then when I did go near my pile I felt woozy. Try it and see what happens.

  9. Posted by Lori on December 17, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    It happens the moment the receptionist walks in –it feels liek I have been hit and the nausea and blurred vision start s I feel weak.. Shortly after I feel like vomiting and end up with a headache/migraine tighten up the smell is so overpowering and then have to sit here for 8 hours at work –What can one do ??

  10. Wow, Lori, that sounds so much like what I go through. I say you have no choice but to ask her nicely to stop wearing perfume. Luckily, I don’t work around other people, but I have had to ask the teachers at my kids’ schools not to let them use the scented soap. I felt like a jerk asking, but they were very kind about it, even if they were also a bit confused.

    You can tell the receptionist that you feel bad having to ask her, but perfume gives you a migraine. Make sure she knows it’s ALL perfume, so she won’t be defensive. And then if she complies and it works out, give her a little gift of appreciation. And if she refuses, talk to your boss about it. Refer him to this website, if you like, or one of the sites I link to. You could also print out some of the information to hand them to read at their leisure.

    It’s your health and livelihood at stake here. Yeah, the way someone smells is a very personal thing, and asking them to change that is a huge imposition, but gosh, would YOU want to make someone feel the way her perfume makes you feel? It’s only perfume. It’s not like you’re asking her to get a buzz cut or wear uncomfortable shoes.

    And you never know…She may be feeling bad and not know why. Other people in your office could have the same problem as you, but be too afraid to say anything. Put some feelers out there. You never know until you ask!

  11. Posted by rachel on January 7, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    have you looked into a candida cleanse and removing glutens from your diet they have helped me with my mcs look also at chronic fatige syndrome good luck
    ps stay away from western medicine it wont help
    if you would like to share info email me

  12. Posted by Rene on June 30, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Hello everyone, this is very interesting because I have found myself wondering for approximately 6 months what is wrong with me. It started with a small cough to clear my throat, I noticed it in January in February I used hand sanitizer with a fragrance in it, it was strong I began to have shortness of breath. I did not think anything of it, I saw my doctor and he said I was a mystery. In March driving to work early in the morning and began to get dizzy almost to the point of fainting. I then had another attack in April dizziness, nausea tingly hands but no cough, scary (in my living room) half our after my run. This time I took myself to the ER they kept me overnight checked my heart, the doc smiled and said I was the healthiest person on the floor and not to worry so much. So far I got an Echo and took a pulmonary test, I passed them both. Finally Thursday June 16th I used the hand sanitizer again which I keep in my work van (by: Personal Care) it happened again this time my right lung was hurting and my right arm felt pressurized. I still did not put two and two together, I was thinking maybe its the peanut butter I had just ate for lunch or maybe my outdoor allergies were acting up, I thought I was going to pass out. Anyway, I began to think and I had a funny taste in my mouth almost like the fragrance, so I rolled down my windows and began to feel a little better. My doctor called me back, I rolled up my windows and to talk and began to cough again to include pain in my right lung. After all that on Saturday the 18th I sat down to watch TV with the kids and I noticed a spray sound I turned around and it was the Glade Sense and Spray I then noticed a bad taste in my mouth and began to notice an irritation in my throat I jumped up and took the batteries out and put in the garage. I stayed away from the TV room until Thursday night (June 22nd) and up to that point I began to feel better, until I went back to the TV room with the kids my symptoms came back, my second episode happened my wife took me to the ER same symptoms: dizziness, cold hands and feet and the chills. Friday June 23rd I called a carpet cleaner to clean the carpets and the upholstery they came on Monday, today (June 30th) I feel a little better, still clearing my throat but I am really hoping that it goes away to move on. It seems every time I was exposed to the chemicals it set me back longer and longer.

  13. Posted by Stewie on September 17, 2011 at 9:11 am

    I’m not sure if what I experienced over the past 12 hours was an allergic reaction to a scent but here’s what happened. I work in what’s supposed to be a scent free environment but it’s not. I was at work yesterday morning. A co-worker walked past and I could actually taste the fragrance of her perfume. I almost choked. Throughout the entire day (at work) my throat had an itch that wouldn’t go away and I kept hacking. It wasn’t a cough but a hack. It was certainly annoying to me and I’m sure it was annoying to those around me because it never stopped. When I got home from work I was exhausted from the continued hacking. Although it didn’t go away after I got home, there was some relief. I was weak and my stomach wasn’t well. I had a bite to eat and within an hour began vomiting. I went to bed but was experiencing pain in my stomach and spent the entire night in the bathroom vomiting. It was brutal. This morning, I wake up and I’m perfectly fine. If it was not for the fact that it all began with me choking from a co-worker’s fragrance I would be willing to accept the idea that it may have been a 24 hour flu. Does anybody know if what Iwent through was a typical reaction to a fragrance? Thanks!

  14. Posted by Anonymous on November 5, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    So good to find this site. With all the talk about “going green” and the environment, I am waiting until they all catch on that fragrances are, indeed, poison. I feel like screaming “clean your house and you won’t have to cover up the stench with a worse stench” whenever I see commercials for products that poison a whole home with fragrance. And have you noticed EVERYTHING is getting more fragranced? Febreze should be banished to a toxic waste site.
    Thank God for a few manufacturers that “get it” and have come up with fragrance free products.
    And thank you for letting me rant.

  15. Posted by Maria on December 18, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I empathize. I’ve had the problem my whole life, and I think I would have to bleed from the eyes to get people to take me seriously. I’ve eliminated all perfume/fragrance/incense/air freshener from my world. I’ve done my best to get others around me to do the same in my presence, and it’s not easy. My social life has been killed by a few perfume wearers joining my clubs. I’m about to lose another community when they move their bookstore into the activity building, and they have incense. Sucks.
    I have a carbon mask that helps a little (“I can Breathe”), and a VOC industrial type mask that I use if I absolutely have to be somewhere.
    I have come to the conclusion that I will no longer quietly leave to protect myself. I make my own stink! The most common response is “Nobody else is bothered, and I get lots of compliments!” Learn to complain, guys!!! I’ve had buttons made up, but am just working up the nerve to wear them. Lots of people have sensitivities to fragrance, but either aren’t aware of what’s causing it, or it’s not bothersome enough to complain. It’s a progressive and degenerative enzyme deficiency, so if you want to keep your health, don’t let them poison you! (Look up Dr. Martin Pall’s research.)

    Oh, and a couple weeks ago I found a homeopathic that actually took down the symptoms. None of the drugs, antioxidants, stress management, candida or diet helps have done much for me, but after my health food store decided to poison their customers with air freshener sticks, I bought this homeopathic, and after about half an hour, I almost felt normal. It’s Allergena allergy relief from Fragrance/solvents. (Some people don’t respond to homeopathics if they use caffein or mint.)

  16. Posted by Anonymous on February 8, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I recently went in to anaphylactic shock due to fragrance allergy. This has limited my work as I normally treat patients who may be wearing fragrance. My colleagues have all agreed to be perfume free and stopped applying deodorant in the ladies. Off to see an immunologist soon.

  17. Posted by Jodie on June 17, 2017 at 3:33 am

    I had same issues for 2 years i went to a healer very lightheaded dizzy all the time afraid to talk or go shopping blurred vision panic attacks cud not concentrate mood swings food comming bk up my neck diarrea ect the healer said it was the perfumes thst i was injaling all the time too many toxins in the home plus i used to spray my scarfs all rhe time do i was in haling it hopefully tjis will help

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