Perspectives on Living with Scent Allergies in a World Full of Scent

Fragrance: Subtle Invitation or Nasty Chokehold?

I bubble over with excitement as I scan the program and then gaze around the theatre taking in the audience, the ambiance. What an excellent view of the stage. This is going to be a great performance. I wonder if – through sheer concentration – I can will the cast onto the stage immediately. Presto! They would suddenly appear as if by magic.

But then my excitement fades. I start feeling dizzy, nauseous and confused. My throat hurts and I’m dimly aware that the unsuspecting person sitting in front of me is in imminent danger of wearing my dinner.

What’s happening to me? I’m now part of the roughly thirty percent of the population that is sensitive to scent. Never again will I look forward to a public performance with such unadulterated anticipation.

I try to avoid scent after that but it emerges unbidden from the pages of magazines, stalks me in the aisle at the grocery store, takes me captive at meetings and sometimes causes me to gaze balefully at utter strangers I might otherwise have taken a liking to.

My choices are a) remain seated as long as I can stand it (and feel increasingly ill), b) move to a different seat (possibly feel better; maybe get people wondering why) or c) leave altogether (probably feel resentful; possibly neglect my responsibilities).

Does this sound far-fetched to you? Welcome to the world of the scent-sensitive. But it is not just those with scent allergies that suffer from exposure to scent; a variety of medical conditions are aggravated by it.

Did you know that asthma attacks are triggered by scented products? Scents trigger migraine headaches. Chronic respiratory conditions like bronchitis, emphysema and sinusitis are all worsened by exposure to fragrances. People with depressed immune systems are often sickened by scent, as are those undergoing chemotherapy.

Derived primarily from petroleum, fragrance chemicals are increasingly recognized as significant sources of indoor air pollution. Thousands of scent chemicals are in use today. Many have never been tested for human safety, alone or in combination, or they have only been tested for skin contact, without addressing their effects on nervous and respiratory systems.

With a little research, it becomes increasingly clear that exposure to scented products poses health risks for everyone. Unfortunately, knowledge about the health risks associated with scented products is not widespread. A lot of people react adversely to their own scented products without realizing it.

And, often people don’t understand how negative the impact of scent can be. Those sickened by scents may have to leave their jobs. They may become increasingly isolated from community, avoiding public events and even essential services, as they withdraw to avoid scented products.

Choosing unscented products (which sometimes still contain scent but have much less of it combined with masking agents), helps those with health issues aggravated by scent be part of the community and it is better for your health and the health of your family, also.

Please remember, too, that heavy use of scent not only detracts from intimacy but also imposes itself on everyone in the vicinity.

  newrule

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