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How to Handle the Smell of Strong Perfume in an Enclosed Car

Updated on January 1, 2013

Perfume-too much is a problem


Can there be anything worse than being next to someone who is wearing a strong perfume and not having the ability to move to a comfortable distance? Since we live in a multicultural society what is normal for one group of people is completely offensive to another. And, with so many people who have allergy problems, it seems that the wearer of a heavy dose of fragrance is just being rude, or very ignorant, about the needs of those people around her. If you were enclosed in a small car with an overbearing perfume wearer, how would you handle the situation?

Solution #1: Be direct

Solution #1 seems the most obvious: communicate to the perfume wearer that you are allergic to strong perfumes. Ask if there is anyway she can refrain from repeating this offense, if there is any possibility that you will be driving with her again.

Explain that for health reasons you cannot be in a small, enclosed area without the offensive smell affecting you adversely. If your companion is sensitive she will apologize, and perhaps even offer to remove the offensive fragrance.

However, if your driving companion is insensitive to the needs of others, or has a warped sense of what is fashionable, then you may have to proceed to other solutions.

Solution #2-Control your window

Solution #2 seems the best one for immediate relief: open the windows and let the air circulate.

Some people have allergic reactions, i.e. rashes, headaches or even migraines, caused by smells they are sensitive to. If you are one of these people it is imperative that you get the problem nipped in the bud before it goes on too long, resulting in a migraine or severe headache.

If it is a scorching day, turn the air conditioner on full blast-your friend may get the message indirectly. If it is a sunny, spring day, open all the windows. If it's raining, open only her window and hope the water hits her in all the right places.

Solution #3 - Remove the offending smell

Sure, it is rare that anyone is traveling with a wash cloth, however, many people do travel with sanitary wipes for their hands; others always have a bottle of water, and perhaps, a kleenex in their glove compartment. Offer it to the offending passenger as an emergency tactic. Hopefully, it won't sever the relationship.

If she refuses to use it, due to her shock that not everyone near her finds her perfume as enchanting as she does, accidentally slam on the brakes and spill your open bottle of water on her. If she is driving however, just throw a couple of squirts her way as you wiggle around in your seat-apologize later.

Solution #4-for the martyrs

For those who are too kindhearted to say anything, or to act on their own defense, grab your handkerchief or kleenex and put it up to your nose to block the smell. Breathe slowly through your mouth blocking the air passage going into your nasal passages-this can be done by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth.

Every once in a while give a slight, unnoticeable wave of the kleenex in front of your face to keep the air moving.

If you have no kleenex or kerchief use a piece of sleeve, as if you are rubbing your nose, or merely place your hand delicately up to your nose and give a slight finger jiggle. By no means do you want to draw attention to your problem so, whatever you do, be discreet. That means: no pinching the nose in a 'peeyoo' motion.

Good luck to all.

Please take this poll

Do you have a sensitivity to perfume?

See results


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    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi FoxySexy-glad you found the article helpful

      Austinstar-I feel the same is a health hazard, in some cases. I can immediately feel my sinuses clog up. Thanks for your feedback. :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 3 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      The very second that I smell pachouli oil, my throat begins to close up and I start gagging. I have to immediately remove myself. I do not know how it is possible to walk around all day with such an offensive odor. It smells like a land fill on a hot, humid day!

      Love these tips!

    • profile image

      FoxySexy!! 3 years ago

      Thanks For This!! :D a big thanks or you (y)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Nell, I agree. I have one co-worker, (not a nurse, thank goodness), that walks by and the fragrance is over powering and then lingers for a half hour, lol

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      I can't stand it! too much perfume, on me or others makes me gag! if Its on me then I use alcohol hand wash works a treat, if its on others I just try to keep away or at least put something over my mouth. It gives me terrible heart burn! lol!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Yes, Vellur-you aren't alone in your suffering, as many people share this dilemma. I had a horrible headache from strong fragrances when I was in my twenties. Now I try to stay away from it. Thanks for reading. :)

      Hi Cathy, thanks for your additional information here. I am aware of the disruption in hormonal chemistry. I'm not sure if people are even aware of the toxicity they bring to their infants and children when they expose them to these chemicals. Thanks for the share and votes.

    • Cathy Fidelibus profile image

      Ms. Immortal 5 years ago from NJ

      Great article and advice. To me being subjected to someone's smelly perfume is like being subjected to second hand smoke. Perfume wearers are not only unintentionally endangering their health but those around them.

      I have recently been reading about perfume and how toxic it is to everybody. Apparently, they have tested some of the most popular brands and found over a dozen chemicals that were not stated on the ingredient list, they are allowed to do this because of "trade secrets". These chemicals are absorbed through skin and enhaled. They are hormone disrupters and especially dangerous to women and their babies.

      Thanks, shared and voted up.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub, very useful. I start to wheeze with strong perfumes and so I suffer a lot with people who wear way too much perfume!! Specially in the lifts!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hello Rajan-thanks for the vote up. It was an interesting hub to research. :)

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Fine hub! Though I'm not allergic to perfumes, I can't stand their strong smell. I certainly know how to cope with the offender better now. Lol!

      Voted up.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi acaetnna-thanks for sharing your experience. I once hosted a group meditation meeting and my b.f. at the time wanted to light incense b/c he liked it and was certain that everyone else did. I told him to hold off until we found out if anyone else was sensitive to that. He kept arguing, but I insisted. It turned out that one of the group attendees was indeed allergic to smells like incense and perfume. He never said, "you were right", but he got the point. :)

    • acaetnna profile image

      acaetnna 5 years ago from Guildford

      What a great hub Denise. I am very sensitive to certain smells and this is a real nuisance at times, particularly within an enclesed space.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Your poll set up is much better than mine! I'll keep that in mind in the future, thanks. I used to wear more perfume when I was 'younger'. Doesn't seem to be a reason to here in farm country, ha ha.

      You like a woman who has a strong perfume scent or just a strong scent? I have a VERY strong scent after I work out...some would say I stink! lol

    • aykianink profile image

      aykianink 5 years ago

      If I could change your poll, I would have it say this:

      (A) I am a man and am very sensitive to perfume.

      (B) I am a man and not sensitive to strong perfume.

      (C) I am a man and am sensitive to certain fragrances only.

      (D) I am a woman and am very sensitive to perfume.

      (E) I am a woman and not sensitive to strong perfume.

      (F) I am a woman and am sensitive to certain fragrances only.

      I have a theory that option (D) will farrrrrrr outweigh option (A). But again, I'm just theorizing. On that note, I like a woman that has a strong scent:-)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Ha ha, your response is not what one expected and a totally different angle, as you've stated. A problem that I did not look into. Thanks for shedding the light here. BTW-I did a massive job of spraying perfume on that stinky fish slip I had to wear to school, in case you missed that, lol

      Thanks for your feedback and vote up. :)

    • cperuzzi profile image

      Christopher Peruzzi 5 years ago from Freehold, NJ

      There were trips to the Port Authority in New York that I could only wish that I only had someone's perfume to contend with.

      While having a perfume problem in a car is easier to control, a bus trip has very limited options and more people to piss off. On the one hand, there are people who have put on a moderate amount of perfume or aftershave and the timing of waiting for it to weaken a touch is understandable. Plus, as I said, options are limited on a bus - and New Yorkers and New Jersey-ans are hearty breeds.

      No, the real problem for bus passengers is the exact opposite of too much perfume - it's either none or not enough. When you have to spend a hour and a half summer commute with someone who is sporting Eau de Armpit, politeness and civility give way to eye watering and nausea.

      Voted Up.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Prasetio-thanks for stopping by and leaving your feedback. :)

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub and I love your tips. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!


    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi mts-how are you? Lol, I like your solution! That strong aroma can be kind of nauseating, can't it? Thanks for stopping by. :)

    • profile image

      mts1098 5 years ago

      Solution #5 RUN :) While I have not been in a car with strong scented perfumes, I have been in elevators and got off of the nearest floor...cheers

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Nancy, yes, there seems to be an increase in the number of people sensitive to fragrances. This was an exclusive title and was such an odd subject, but I learned a few new things. Thanks for your feedback.

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      This must be a terrible situation to be stuck in. Many people are allergic to scents nowadays.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Ha ha, Hi Midget-I think, at best, most of us would LOVE to use solution #3 on the offensive person. Thanks for reading and sharing. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I think most of us would do number 3. LOL! But sometimes it's good to let the person know honestly that they're wearing an offensive smell, so that they don't overdo it in future. Thanks for sharing!! Passing it on.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi DDE-thanks for reading and commenting.

      Thanks Rose-I'm glad you got the humor,hee hee.

      Oh my gosh, Gordon...what a dilemma! Certainly my suggestions here would not have worked, but I'm glad you had sympathetic co-workers who helped you get out of that jam. Bathroom breaks can be lifesavers at times. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      Hi, Denise. This actually brings back a memory for me from over twenty years ago. I was a (very!) young man working in a small bank branch in my home town. There was a customer came in almost every day, an extremely attractive young woman, whom I simply could not attend to. Literally - even through the security screens - the moment she walked in the door, my eyes began to stream so much I virtually couldn't see, simply because of the overwhelming scent of her perfume. I was the only male working in the branch but even the largely older female staff agreed it was excessive and when they saw her coming in, they used to tell me to pretend I needed a bathroom break. I did! I'm not sure how I could have used your tips in those circumstances but I would certainly have tried to adapt them :)

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      I don't have a problem but have freinds who have alergies, and even anyone suffering from Asthma can find this a big problem.

      You have offered some very helpful suggestions, I must admit my favourite was the 'rainy day' solution, that had me smiling.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Most helpful points mentioned here thanks

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I agree, vespa. I still am amazed at how strong some (older) women put perfume on. It's a generation thing, I think.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      I have asthmatic friends and family members and so never wear perfume. Certani perfumes even seem to bother me. These are good suggestions, although it would be better if more people were educated on this common problem. Great Hub!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      lol that's funny, Frank...for everything there is a purpose, ha ha. Thanks for your comments.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      You know Denise sometimes I don't mind it you can fart and no one will ever know..yeah? great hub as per usual my friend :)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Sherry-yes, the one part I neglected of the article was to state it depends on the circumstances. Can you imagine someone telling their boss that she wears to much perfume just when they are going to meet to discuss a raise, ha ha? The MIL dilemma is another special circumstance.

      Thanks for your comments.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 5 years ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I have a problem with strong perfume even in a larger, more open room. I'm not so much allergic, but I find it unpleasant. I think that before I got into a car with someone like that I'd have to either confront them directly or make an excuse not to go. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I'm really not willing to suffer. Well, on second thought, if it was my MIL I might just have to bite my tongue and do the martyr routine.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Hi Kathi-thanks for your feedback. I'm like you, I get h/a's with strong odors. I think it is a delicate situation that also depends on the ages of those involved, as well as the relationship.

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      I get headaches from strong perfumes and even from fabric softeners. I'll put a kleenex to my nose or open a window. It can be an uncomfortable situation sometimes!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Sandcastles-thanks for your feedback. I am also sensitive to strong perfume, even if I am wearing it. In fact, I don't wear it on my skin very often.

      Hi Kristin-I actually have not been in this situation with perfume-my experience has been being in an enclosed area, like a car, with a smoker. The cigarette smell lingers on the clothes and is difficult to be around. I get a headache from that as well. Thanks for your comments-martyr, huh? :) Good insight.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 5 years ago from Illinois

      I guess I haven't been in this situation before, but I can see how it could be a real problem for an allergy sufferer. I'm guessing I would be the martyr.

    • profile image

      SandCastles 5 years ago

      Excellent Hub. I am sensitive to strong perfume smells.