We’ve all experienced a wiff 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.
Recently I experienced a very frightening new additon 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.
This has never happned 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 wear perfume (Dune), very occasionally, myself, and a few sprays doesn’t give me any adverse reaction. I do tend to spray perfume on my clothes, a scarf or sleeve rather than on my skin and I am actually quite partial to my husband’s ‘freshly scrubbed and after-shaved’ smell. Now that’s still perfume but it smells good and has no effect on my breathing, well not asthma anyway .
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 – but it doesn’t quite make my throat close up.
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 premesis.
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.
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.
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.
So, please, don’t wear too much perfume. Don’t douse yourself in intoxicating aromas. I’d rather smell the real you – well, most of the time anyway…
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?