Coping Strategies for Scent Sensitive Persons

Stories from Scent Sensitives

What Smells Make Your Nostrils Twitch?.

How to manage living in a world full of perfumes and toxic chemical smells. Readers help other scent-sensitives by sharing their stories and strategies for living amidst an aroma-filled world.

My Smeller is Way Too Sensitive

Sometimes peoples' breath is so strong it reminds me of mothballs. I haven't figured that one out. I smell bags of oranges and lemons to make sure they are not spoiled before they go into my shopping cart.

I track down odors and have prevented computer fires several times at my former work. I rarely wear fragrances. 'Red' makes me sneeze and have immediate nausea. Some expensive fragrances smell like bug spray, while some bug sprays smell like they would be pleasant perfumes. Go figure! Do carrots sometimes taste like soap to you? I found out that those carrots are old. Taste and smell go hand in hand. ~Dottie

MCS - The Reality of this Condition

I have been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities after two years of bizarre symptoms. I was not aware of such a condition for these two years, so I can't be accused of "looking for" this diagnosis. I am also very calm and sane and not subject to depression. I am upset that many of the links about this condition point to sites that invalidate it...particularly, the QuackWatch site, but others as well. While chemical exposures do tend to put us into something like "panic attacks," this is a reaction from our bodies telling us something is dangerous and we must flee.

I would like to see articles about this condition being a "crack-pot diagnosis" removed. I know this seems narrow-minded, but those sites might be the only ones that some people read. If they believe what is said, they may never get well or understand the pain a loved one is suffering. They may not check the dates of these statements to realize that opinions on MCS are changing.

Once I put my medical history together, it became clear to me that a massive exposure to spray insect killers was the major trigger for me. If you have MCS, the "it doesn't exist" statement seems ridiculous. ~aliendra51

How I Cope

I have grown more and more sensitive to any scent. Worst is cleaning products, perfume, candles. It is affecting every aspect of my life form social to professional. Occupation as a RN has left it difficult to work anywhere. How I cope:

  • Use nothing with a artificial scent at home.
  • Use vinegar for cleaning, toilet, tubs, sinks.
  • When I start to feel a reaction I will take a paper and fan myself until I am able to leave the environment.
  • Meditate and pay attention to my breathing.
  • If I am going to be somewhere in a enclosed space with others cover as much skin as possible to decrease exposure.
  • When I go to a hotel I always take a large king-size sheet for times when the cleaning product is in the air and burns my skin. Wrap myself in sheet to survive the night, open the door an air out as much as possible, turn on air conditioner to blow new cool air.

~sherri

Fight Unfriendly Aroma with Friendly Aroma

The best escape (prevention) is to keep or have an orange, peel it, suck its fruit, and inhale its skin.

Alternatively, keep a hanky with some mild scent of orange or sandal to keep your nostrils covered. We can fight with unfriendly aroma by putting our nose near friendly aromas. I am allergic to smoke and fumes of artificial chemicals, etc. But, sandal incense burning is very helpful for me. ~pankaj kr mohta

Chewing Gum

I have an extreme sensitivity to scented candles and lotions. Telling people to stop using them in my presence might be misconstrued as insulting or abrasive. A friend suggested I chew about 2-3 pieces of gum and inhale through my mouth and exhale through my nose. It’s a quick temporary fix until I can remove myself from that situation ~Corinne

Saline Nasal Spray Helps

I have been extremely scent intolerant for at least the last 10 years. It seems you can't go to a home or shop without inhaling those terrible scented candles or fresheners.

Febreeze is especially bad. My nose burns like fire, and it gives me a terrible sore throat, then a knot in my throat. Some just take my breath. The fragrance of fabric softeners and some shampoos affect me the same way. As soon as I come in contact I have to leave and I use a product called Ocean (saline nasal spray). The allergist told me to spray into each nostril and then blow it right back out to wash out allergens. This does help. ~Nancy

Low Dose Allergen Immunotherapy

In the past I carried around a respirator like you use when painting to avoid exposure to fragrances. I've been able to wear this less often since I started low dose allergen (LDA) immunotherapy. I don't know where I would be if I had not found this treatment to which my psychologist referred me. She suffered from the same condition. ~Cheyla T

Try Living in a Chemical Free Home

I suffer from the same reactions and have lived in a chemical free house for more than 20 years. I use no artificial deodorants or bathroom room fragrances (lighting a match removes smells), no smelly toilet paper - nothing with a smell. For cleaning use white vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, eucalyptus oil, Oil of Orange and Gumpton (Brand name). I make my own soap and shampoo (and use the PURE essential oils I can tolerate). I buy Herbon (brand name) chemical and fragrance free washing powder. Removed the carpets from my house and use a portable dehumidifier with HEPA filters. Traveling on public transport is a nightmare! Exposure to some perfumes feels like a hot poker is being pushed up my nose. I develop debilitating headaches and my mood plummets. If I am going to work meeting I take codeine to block my receptors. I sit at the end of the aisles at the cinema and cannot attend the opera or ballet due to the intensity of the perfumes. Hope my tips are helpful for you. ~MaryRB

Coping Devices

Sensitive to chemical smells, i.e. perfume, detergents, cleaning products. Trader Joe's has products which have helped. They have unscented soap (2 to a pkg.) and Dr. Bronner's liquid soap with Peppermint Oil.

That has saved me. I clean with it and spray it on the back of my neck and on chest. It must be diluted about 3 to 1. I keep small spray bottles of it. Vicks VapoRub helps. I put it in the nose and at the base of the nose. One must learn coping devices. ~Diane

Breathable Nasal Air Filters

I brought some really good nasal pads from amazon called breath pure breathable nasal air filters. You insert them in your nose they are flesh colored and they actually do stop most perfume smells. I had major problems at work with air fresheners and I got in touch with health and safety through my union and the school had to remove them. They cause breathing problems for asthmatics. Unsympathetic staff still continued to wear perfume but these pads with a dab of peppermint oil on my nostrils stopped the smell which reduced the amount of migraines I get from the smells. Vicks Vapo Rub up my nostrils also helps. For the pain I have found the only thing that works is Imigran which can be brought at any chemist. I have just been referred by a neurologist for Botox so maybe this might help. I sympathize with all of you. It is a disabling condition where not many people actually understand how painful it is. ~Jackie

Filter Masks, Nasal Rinse, Aerobics

I am so sensitive to smell of grooming chemicals, I have stopped entering buildings. I can smell it from 200 feet. I cope with it by wearing mask that painters use. The smell not only cause the headache which may lasts several days, my brain slows down. Also the skin and nose absorbs the chemicals which are difficult to get rid of. I use saline nasal rinse using water, salt and baking soda to clear the nose. The 6oz re-useable bottle I use is sold under brand name "Ayr." The only method that works for me for full recovery is to do intense aerobics for about an hour which gets rid of absorbed perfume on skin through sweating and restores the brain function by increasing the blood circulation. So I organize my activities depending when I plan to do my aerobics. As a last resort I have taken shower using perfume free laundry detergent instead of soap to get rid of perfume from my skin. This happened when a couple of times after visiting doctors office and was too sick to do aerobics. ~SK