Posts Tagged ‘fragrance sensitivity’

Fragrance ingredients to be disclosed

A reader brought this article to my attention: http://www.icis.com/blogs/green-chemicals/2009/08/ It says that the International Fragrance Association plans to begin voluntarily disclosing the ingredients used in the industry. Since it’s voluntary, I doubt they’ll disclose anything that may harm their bottom line, but we’ll see.

On a personal note, my recovery time is way shorter after exposure, especially since I figured out the best thing to do is rest, no matter what. I think with rest and continued avoidance, I may heal enough to re-enter society within the next year. Realistically, I know I’ll probably have symptoms for a long while, if not the rest of my life. But I hope if I listen to my body and give her the support she needs to heal, it will eventually be a problem I used to have.

Odd Random Fragrance Encounter #2

Reader Linda posted her own ORFE:

Organic squash from a farmers market – thoroughly scented, from either soaking in fragranced dish detergent or sitting in a plug-ined room for days. Wasn’t washable.

Wow, how weird! So basically, even though you were buying an organic product, which by definition is grown without chemicals, you were still exposed to chemicals. Did you eat it? Did the scent disappear with cooking? Thanks for your sharing your ORFE.

Emerging from The Time of the Migraine

I have officially emerged from The Time of the Migraine. I say “officially” because it’s been a whole week since the constant threat lifted, and though I’ve had setbacks over this week, they were temporary and quite manageable.

I guess the extra stinkiness of the holiday season had me worn down to the point that I couldn’t heal up. I finally took to wearing a painter’s mask–you know, the kind that blocks paint fumes, fabric with a little yellow respirator on the front–to the store and when the kids got home from school, because the slightest whiff of any scent whatsoever caused immediate pain in my sinuses and eyes. The Time of the Migraine lasted two whole months, in which my husband had to do way more housework than he cared to,I  scarred my step-daughter for life when her visit left me clutching my head for three days, and I looked like a total Froot Loop having to wear that mask in public.

I will wear it whenever I need to, despite my lower hotness-factor, because the thing really worked. It blocked all scents, even vinegar (which I don’t have a problem with, but it shows the merits of the mask) and by wearing it in smelly places I was able to stave off the migraine for longer periods. I highly recommend getting one of these masks. I found mine in the paint section of Wal-Mart for five bucks, but I’m sure they carry them anyplace they sell paint.

My sinuses have given me trouble for years, and they are the root of my migraines. I’m pretty sure my sensitivity to fragrance arose gradually from the chronic sinus problem rather than the other way around, though I can’t be sure. I have thyroid issues, as well, so it’s hard to know where hormonal misery ends and sinus misery begins. But I finally have a doctor who listens and a course of treatment that may clear it up. My ultimate dream is for my sinuses to work perfectly, to be able to smell any damn thing I want to, and to never have a migraine again.

Reader question: How do I handle a co-worker’s perfume?

Lori told her story in the comments. She writes:

It happens the moment the receptionist walks in –it feels like I have been hit and the nausea and blurred vision starts 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 ??

And my reply:

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!

Next post will be another reader question. Send your questions to sherri@sherricornelius.com, or leave them in the comment section.

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.

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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.

Think of me and go fragrance-free!

I’ve recently found out that my chronic illness is caused by fragrance. I thought I’d share my journey here, where my discoveries may be of use to someone and where I am sure to attract like-minded people.

In case you’ve never tried to rid yourself of all fragrance, it is impossible. It’s everywhere: in the schools my children attend, in every public place and in every home, even in my back yard when my neighbor’s dryer is running. It’s in products you’d never expect, like unscented deoderant and detergent. You’re bombarded by fragrance chemicals while standing in line at the check-out counter by the perfume inserts in closed magazines; by walking down a corridor that was mopped yesterday; by hugging your children after school, where the ambient chemicals cling to their clothes and hair. All of these things make me sick.

By now you may be labeling me a kook. “I go to the store and hug my children and use unscented deoderant, and I don’t smell anything,” you might be saying. “How can that make you sick?”

I would counter with these points:

  1. The average person doesn’t notice the subtler scents anymore. She is used to the smell because she’s around it every minute of every day, even in her bed at night. Think of a smoker who can’t smell the smoke that clings to his clothes, but a non-smoker can.
  2. Not being able to detect an odor doesn’t guarantee the chemicals are not in the air. Many times I’ve had symptoms without actually smelling anything, only to find out later an air freshener was used, or the person I was with had put perfume on that morning. The overt scent had dissipated, but the chemicals were still doing their job, which is vaporizing into the air and traveling up my nose.

The thing that really gets me about fragrance is that in most products it’s unnecessary. So the next time you’re shopping for dryer sheets, think of me and go fragrance-free.