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Perfume and Allergies

Updated on February 9, 2011

Beautiful Scent, Beautifully Packaged

As a kid I was always fascinated with the shiny glass perfume bottles made into beautiful decorative shapes.  An elegant pheasant, complete with colored tail feathers, held cologne.  A tin soldier, a resting doe, or an Easter chick held a mysteriously enlivening scent.  Tall blue bottles, short diamond shaped bottles, musky brown and ribbons red.  What I didn't understand was why sometimes my head hurt after I'd opened them and put some on, and why I sometimes felt dizzy.

Perfume Reaction: Migraines

Perfume is a common migraine trigger. Many folks are completely disabled by migraine attacks and are unable to work near anybody who is wearing any kind of perfume. Until recently people in the workplace had to tough it. A court case has been decided giving employees with migraine attacks more rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act. The act states that employers have to make accommodations for their disabled employees, and this includes making the workplace a perfume free zone if it is necessary for their safety and for them to continue being able to work.

Unbelievable as it may seem, when many people are simply asked not to wear perfume and when it is explained to them why they need to stop wearing it, they often refuse to comply unless the employer is going to be sued. One wonders about their lack of empathy when such a simple act could relieve another human being of such extreme suffering.

Perfume Reaction: Anaphylaxis

Hives, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing that gradually increases till the airway is the size of a drinking straw and getting smaller...

No, sadly, it is not an exaggeration.  Perfume can and has caused anaphylaxis in some sensitive individuals, requiring an epinephrine injection.  Workplaces are not the only threat to allergy sufferers.  Sometimes it's even dangerous to shop at the store.  Sometimes just one whiff can set someone off.  Those unlucky enough to have this problem carry epi pens and antihistamines in case of accidental exposure.

Perfume Reaction: Asthma Attack

"All the fancily dressed woman had to do was walk past me.  I immediately started coughing hard, and couldn't stop," said the person being interviewed, who wishes to remain anonymous.  "I had to get out my inhaler right there in the store.  Everyone was looking at me.  I hate to make a scene, but it was either that or...."


Is the wearing of perfume really worth doing this to someone? 

Admittedly I have a few favorite scents I like, but I have voluntarily stopped wearing perfumes altogether because I cannot abide the thought of accidentally exposing someone to it, someone who could be hurt or killed by the reaction. 

Will anybody join me?

Should employers be able to ban perfume in the workplace?

See results


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    • Silver Poet profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Poet 

      6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Hi Stephanie. It's truly frustrating for those who get sick from all these scents, and I'm sure it's also frustrating for those who feel they are being limited by those whom they cannot understand. They probably feel the allergic folks are overreacting because the perfume wearers never experienced the symptoms for themselves. Restaurants have smoking and non-smoking sections. I wonder if something like that would work for perfume?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I think people should really have some empathy for those with allergies to perfumes. Just because you enjoy a certian smell doesn't mean you have to douse yourself in half a bottle of it and cause other people problems. I have reactions to several perfumes, air fresheners, ect. I once had the joy of my throat swelling up when I was surrounded by a cloud of someone else's perfume, and anytime I'm around people who's clothes smell strongly of dryer sheets/laundry detergent I get the same thing... is it so hard to go without all these artificial smells? Really people?

    • Silver Poet profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Poet 

      6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer


      So sorry to hear you've had such a rough time! Hopefully more people will become aware of perfume allergy and try to see it from a new perspective.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have really bad allergys to purfume and try to do everything I can so I don't have a bad reaction. I have asked people at work not to wear purfume and most have not stopped wearing it. Some people I did work with like to see me have a really bad reaction to thier purfume which made me very mad. They would come to work with even more purfume on then they should. I get very very bad headaches and get very vey dizzy. I have never passed out but allways seem that I will pass out if I can't get to some fresh air fast. Some times even with fresh air I can't think and is really hard for me to do a lot of stuff. I think it is really sad that people think that it is all in my head, but it is not. When people have allergies to other things most people understand but when it comes to purfumes they don't understand or better yet don't want to understand.

    • Silver Poet profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Poet 

      7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      Thanks for the comment, RTalloni, and thanks for caring about other people.

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      Well done! I have been learning more about this topic lately and appreciate what you share here. Voted up and useful. Wish there was an "important" that I could click on!

      There's been a turn in the tide of perfume making over the years, and it's actually a deadly turn for more people than we realize. Those who obnoxiously wear today's perfumes do not have the respiratory or migraine issues so they think they have no problem. They need to think again, do some research on what they are doing to themselves, and make a decision to protect themselves, even though they don't care about other people.

      Why do I care about letting them know that they are harming themselves? Well, I'm not like them, for one thing, but I have to admit that I'm not totally altruistic. If they stop using these dangerous products for themselves it will be a benefit to others, and if government takes over health care there will be less of a financial strain on the system, as well as less of a burden on the health caregivers working in the system.

      I really think that consumers have the answer, including business owners. I do think they should have the "right" to ban anything they want to ban in their businesses and if there is enough ground-roots support they will legally have that "right."

      I am a perfume lover, So-De-La-R being my all time favorite, but no more of any kind for me. Again, there are multiple reasons, the two most important being the dangers of perfumers ingredients and the use of their profits to support causes I do not support.

      I love lavender, real lavender, as well as many other natural scents. Am hoping to do some research on whether natural scents bother other people and, if not, how best to use them as perfumes.

    • Silver Poet profile imageAUTHOR

      Silver Poet 

      7 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I agree about the bathing idea, Polly. Thanks for the comment!

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      7 years ago from US

      I wrote a hub on this too but took it down after awhile. It is horrible how some people do, makes me wonder if they are covering they didn't bathe! Some people could die from this stuff, it is like pollution! I use a perfumes deodorant, mild or powder. Good hub.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I no longer use perfume and colognes. The scent is just "too much". I also think the use of such, should be banned from public places such as restaurants, movie theaters, concert halls and such. I know of so many people who literally get sick from the smell. This is a great article and I hope everyone reads it! :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      I remember the days long ago when I doused myself in perfume and colognes: Evening in Paris - a childhood gift from Grandmom, Shalimar and Chantilly in high school and much later, Joy. Now the stuff makes my nose burn and my eyes water. But to make it against the law to wear it? Hmmm.

    • North Wind profile image

      North Wind 

      7 years ago from The World (for now)

      Having allergies myself, I know what it is like to enter a store and be assailed with a scent that either brings on an immediate headache or triggers incessant sneezing. That said, you are right -there are people who cannot live without perfume. I avoid them as much as I can but in places like the grocery store, sometimes I face them. The joke is when I start to cough and sneeze people start to look at me as though I have something contagious and I feel bad to say no it is that lady's perfume because they get really offended. Funny thing though -men's cologne does not affect me in the least.

      Great hub!


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