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Can Scents Really Cause You To Physically Become Sick (YES THEY CAN) .....

Updated on March 2, 2010

Love people more than you love your favorite scent.

If you walk into a room and someone has on strong perfume, can you get sick, do you get sick?

By sick I mean, feel faint, lightheaded, you get a headache, your nose burns, and you can taste the scent when you breathe in and then you get sick to your stomach, leaving you woozy.

Being allergic to scents can that really be? Yes it can….!!

Allergic means different things to different people.

So each doctor might have a rather diverse take on what allergic means.

Allergic to me means having problems with scents. Whether its perfume, cologne, soaps, cleaners, smoke, whatever scents make you feel uncomfortable well that means you have a reaction to them and it’s agonizing to be around.

I know for me I have had this conversation numerous times, with different people. But I can remember in my early twenties, I plugged in those room fresheners all over our home, I loved them, and I had potpourri all over the house. I loved it…….

But by the age of 29 my sinuses began to take a turn. I began having problems with scents. I stopped using the plug-ins, did away with potpourri, and stopped wearing any perfumes. The older I got the worse it seemed to bother me being around anything really scented.

Back then when I went out with friends and I was in a closed in space and they had on perfume it really was uncomfortable. But if I mentioned it, it seemed I always got the same response. Most thought I was just finding something to complain about. The scents didn’t bother them, so they couldn’t relate.

I remember once getting this new job; we were in very close quarters. We had cubicles and the only thing that separated us was a thin open wall. I had been there about four months when they hired a new younger girl, she wore very strong perfume and I endured the scent for a few days, feeling so sick, but afraid to say anything in the fear of offending her.

Finally after three days of pure torture I decide to say something to our supervisor, who was also female. She too wore perfume but I wasn’t close to her office so her perfume didn’t bother me unless I was right in front of her. In other words I could escape her scent but I couldn’t escape the scent of the young woman we had just hired because she sat right next to me.

So I sat down and told the supervisor my concern. She was less than sympathetic. She couldn’t see why I was asking her to talk with the young woman. She didn’t believe that a scent could make you really sick. I was asked to bring in a note from a doctor to prove my allegations.

Of course I had to sit through another day of torture and my eyes by the fourth day began to swell. Still no sympathy from my supervisor. But that evening the doctor I saw for my sinus problems was able to see me and he wrote my note for the supervisor.

The next day when I went in to work I spoke to the supervisor, and I gave her a copy of the letter my doctor wrote. Again she still couldn’t believe that a scent could physically make you ill. I told her I was sorry she couldn’t grasp what I was telling her because she wasn’t experiencing what I was and until she developed a problem with scents she probably wouldn’t understand. But the note from the doctor explained in plain terms that anyone could follow, that perfume can be offensive and it can cause another person who has to intake the scent in a closed in space to actually become sick. And it stated that it can even bring on a sinus infection. I had endured the scent for the last three days and I now had a sinus infection. That too was stated in the letter.

The supervisor and the young lady stopped wearing the heavy perfumes, and the owner of the business even had the supervisor post a few notices about wearing perfumes while at work. They changed the policy after a few others came forward and complained they too were getting sick, but were afraid of saying anything. They heard I spoke up and they too had the strength to join me after being quite and just suffering through.

Just a few years back at Christmas I spoke up to family members. This particular year we would be gathering at my mother’s home, and with it being such close quarters I knew if certain members wore their desired fragrances some us would suffer and that would be unpleasant.

My one sister also has problems with scents, my husband now was bothered by scents, and Mom even said it made her a little sick too at times depending on how strong the scent was. Well I talked it over with the sister that also suffered as I did and she was afraid of talking with the family members that wore perfumes and colognes, because she was afraid of offending the others if she said anything.

We had just experienced a bad situation at Mom’s a few weeks before, and I said something to my sister-in-law. She came to Mom’s and we were already there. Mom’s family room where we were all gathered has a gas stove that blows heat, and remember its wintertime. So the room is already hot from the heater blasting and in walks my brother and his wife. She was wearing a strong perfume that permeated the entire room. It was honest to God so strong I had to get up and excuse myself. I got so sick; I thought I would throw up. Not because the scent smelled bad, but because it went into my sinuses, my eyes began to water and then I had a terrible headache to start up immediately after they arrived.

I was allergic to her scent, her perfume.

I wasn’t able to sit there any longer. I got up and went upstairs, and I stayed until I felt like I could go back down.

When I did come back down I kept my distance from the door.    

I never went back into the room, but the scent hit me again as soon as I touched the bottom step downstairs. The whole hallway smelled like her perfume and I was again feeling woozy.

But I stayed and tried to enjoy their visit. I love her and I didn’t want to offend her in anyway. But I finally got up the nerve to say something. As they got up to leave, she knew something was wrong, she knew I couldn’t be around perfume or scents and she stated, is it my perfume. I said yes. I told her I feel so sick and my eyes were running water by this time. I could see she was still a little offended, but she said I guess I don’t get a hug then. I said not until you stop wearing perfume and we laughed.

That’s when I told her that in a few weeks when we have the family get together, promise me you won’t wear any perfume. She said I didn’t know it made you actually sick, I said well now you know. So please remember that for our family Christmas gathering.

They left and I blew her a kiss from a distance.

I still had other family members to call about their colognes and perfumes. My son was one of them and my older sister who always wore perfume, but hers usually wasn’t too offensive. But I didn’t want to take any chances. I wanted to enjoy Christmas and not smell any offensive perfumes while trying to enjoy the delicious food everyone would bring. So I made my calls, and of course my son gave me a lecture, and I reminded him to tell his girlfriend who also wore a light fragrance at times to leave it off for this gathering. They agreed but still had something to say about it.

My older sister was easy I just told her husband and he passed the message along to her. And I even reminded him no smoking that day unless he did it outside.

Well the Christmas gathering day had arrived.

Everyone was having a good time; no body wore perfume or cologne. It was great. We were sitting in the room where my Mom had her Christmas Tree set up and my son walked in, his girlfriend followed him, and a lot of the other family members were there too, in that room.

I could see something was up but didn’t have a clue as to what was about to transpire next. All eyes were on me and I wasn’t quite sure what to think. My son said Mom we have a gift for you. Everyone started coming into the room, they were all smiles. I said what are you guys up to? Okay Mom just have a seat he said. I sat on the sofa and he stood in front of me, just a few feet away. His girlfriend was by his side, she was already laughing before he began to read. Out from behind his back he announced he had a special poem written just for me, his girlfriend was really laughing hard. I sat there and just listened. It was the cutest poem; it went something like the family got run over by a hummer on the way to grandma’s house for our family gathering. The poem was about me calling everyone and telling them not to wear their perfume and colognes. The hummer was mentioned because that’s what I drive.

The poem was really funny, and yes it was to jab a little at me.

But my sister came to my defense and spoke up and told my son in front of everyone that she too was in on the calling. She told him that she has wanted to say something for a very long time but didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and so she just kept quiet. She commended me for standing up and speaking out.

I wasn’t offended by the poem and I took it very well, I laughed right along with them.

But I at least got my point across. Now they know it is something they need to be more aware of and they have tried to be more understanding when we gather as a family, keeping it in mind.

What’s happening now is my son has begun to start having some issues with scents also. He is now 31 and he just admitted to me that his new girlfriend stopped wearing perfume because it was bothering him some. He said he has cut back on the amount of colognes he was wearing and has even eliminated some that he use to wear but can no longer tolerate.

My sister in-law is still a work in progress. She still doesn’t quite get it and will occasionally still wear very strong perfumes. Like recently and it was bad.

Oh well, I guess maybe one day she will understand, but maybe not.

All I know is that it is a real allergic problem and it can make you sick and very uncomfortable. It can also bring on a sinus infection and it has before for me.

My reason for writing this article is to bring more awareness to this problem.

So if someone you know has an allergic reaction to something you wear like a perfume or cologne, be considerate, know they aren’t just complaining, they are really affected by certain scents.

If they asked you not to wear anything while in their presence wait until you aren’t with them to splash it on….

Here’s to good health and loving others more than your favorite scents!!!!     

Oh yeah and if I can get the poem from my son I’ll post it later for everyone to read, it was really cute.

Best, Wanda Hudgins


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    • profile image


      23 months ago

      I have a really bad reaction to Bath and Body Works Products especially. I can smell them a mile away. I get nauseous and once I loss all the color in my face, became lightheaded, and almost passed out in a room filled with people at work. It wasn't until then that I people started believing me. I have changed workplaces and now I have a hard time getting people to understand this problem I have. I agree it only gets worse as you get older. I try to chew gum which helps for a little while and keep a bottle of mint aromatherapy around me which I stick close to my nose when I feel sick but if anyone has any suggestions to combat this or how to get an employer to believe you instead of just telling them.

    • profile image


      6 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      perfume, hair spray, scented soap and exhaust fumes bother me terribly. is there any cure or medicine for relief. the doctors only want to give me anti-depressants.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Personally, I've found that I can now TASTE smells. When I told a customer of mine who was wearing an insanely high amount of perfume why my nose was wrinkling and I was as close to the register and far from her as possible to get away from the smell she accused me of being pregnant. Oi, as a lesbian who hasn't been with a guy in over 4 years I found that repulsive to even think about. Especially since I'll be going off to college soon. Nothing sucks more than being able to TASTE perfume, laundry detergent or other things like that.

    • Friday Girl profile image

      Friday Girl 

      9 years ago

      This is very interesting to me as I developed a bad reaction to certain scents after having my first baby. Body lotion which I previously loved and used every day became unbearable to use and as for Vanilla the very thought of that smell makes me feel nauseous.


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