Have you ever experienced sensory overload? You may be able to recall a moment when a stranger walked by and your nose scrunched up in response to their overpowering perfume. Or maybe you had to leave a cosmetics store because the scented lotions and perfumes were too strong. For some, a strong scent can be more than an annoyance. It can cause headaches, dizziness, sneezing, wheezing and difficulty breathing, or even hives.
Asthmatics with a fragrance sensitivity react to strong scents in a similar way that they would react to allergens. Strong fragrances can act as irritants that worsen asthma symptoms and make it difficult to breathe. Perfumes aren’t the only culprits; detergents, soaps, candles and cleaning products can also trigger a reaction. Identifying which scents are “safe” can take a little trial and error. Start by trying unscented or fragrance-free cleaning and cosmetic products. If you notice that a coworker wears a perfume that causes you to sneeze, wheeze, or run for cover, talk to your supervisor about educating the office on fragrance sensitivities. An air purifier or fan could also help lessen the scent. If all else fails, see if you can move to a different space in the office or alter your work schedule so you spend less time in contact with the problematic perfume.