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Jennifer Hunter
@jenniferhunter

Posts: 198
Joined: Aug 15, 2018

Fragrances and Asthma / Allergies

Posted by @jenniferhunter, Sat, Nov 24 6:30pm

I wanted to increase awareness about the dangers of fragrances to those of us with breathing difficulties, and those who are affected by fragrances that are all around us. In my own home, I use cleaning products without fragrances and run a HEPA filter with activated carbon that absorbs chemicals from the air so my home is a safe place to breathe. We built a home with building products that didn't have formaldehyde and without carpet because it triggers my asthma. Going out in public is a problem because I'll be bombarded with all kinds of chemicals. My lungs react quickly and I've started carrying a respirator so when I'm in the car and pass something that bothers me, I can get the respirator on to try to avoid problems. I did use the respirator at a play holding it over my face with a cloth over it so no one could see what it was and it worked, and I put it away after the lights came back on. There were people right near me with heavy fragrances that would have caused an asthma attack. As I understand this, it is the chemicals that help distribute the fragrances that are the big offenders… things like phalates. While traveling this weekend, I was happy to see a sign at a rest area that the soap in the washroom was fragrance free because of allergies to fragrances. That is a step in the right direction. It's my hope that people reading this might consider not wearing personal fragrances in public. Workers in health care often do this to help their patients. I hope that sometime in the future, there is some kind of regulation in the fragrance industry. Ingredients are not disclosed and those of us who are affected can have serious reactions. This is a medical problem. I thank those people who are fragrance free in support of those who are like me.

REPLY

Jennifer, Thank you for starting this thread. It's such an important topic and a great reminder for the people that suffer from breathing issues.

Liked by Jennifer Hunter

Jennifer, I do not have a breathing sensitivity to perfumes, but I do intensely dislike the smells of heavy perfumes on people, and especially in a shopping mall or cosmetic counter in a department store. I also know people who have to avoid going to the shopping malls because of this. Personally II have had to change seats at an event because of the unpleasant smell.

I don't like to use strong scents, but I have a question – What about the hand lotions that come in 'original scents' (Jergens, Johnson Baby Lotion, etc)? I understand that you don't use them, but what about if another person uses them in a moderate/normal on their hands around you? Are you sensitive to those?

@rosemarya

Jennifer, I do not have a breathing sensitivity to perfumes, but I do intensely dislike the smells of heavy perfumes on people, and especially in a shopping mall or cosmetic counter in a department store. I also know people who have to avoid going to the shopping malls because of this. Personally II have had to change seats at an event because of the unpleasant smell.

I don't like to use strong scents, but I have a question – What about the hand lotions that come in 'original scents' (Jergens, Johnson Baby Lotion, etc)? I understand that you don't use them, but what about if another person uses them in a moderate/normal on their hands around you? Are you sensitive to those?

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Thanks for asking. Some mild fragrances in lotions are tolerable and some are not. My mom got in my car with some highly fragranced lotion on her face and I started reacting right away with trouble breathing and I put on my respirator. She washed her face when we got where we were going. I have trouble at hotels. Some have fancy designer soaps that set off my asthma. Basic Neutrogena soap at the hotel hasn't bothered me, but at home I use unscented soaps and lotions. Some things which natural scents like lemon or grapefruit are fine. I did have trouble with a rose scented liquid soap, but that wasn't a natural scent, it was manufactured and really smelled awful to me, not anything like an actual rose flower. I have trouble just walking through the grocery store sections with laundry detergent (I use fragrance free) and even outside when neighbors doing laundry with fragrances coming out of the dryer vent will bother me. I always sniff test anything in the store first before bringing that home. Jergens and Johnson's might be tolerable, but I'd have to test that and let you know. Another issue at hotels is carpet powder that is not only scented, but has fine talc dust in it. I now take a respirator to sleep with if I find myself in that situation. I try to ask about that before I make reservations, and sometimes the staff doesn't know what the cleaning staff does.

This topic is closely related to the discussion that @chicagomichelle @peggyj4411 @ladycat and others started:

* Heavy perfume in medical facilities, or anywhere, really https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/heavy-perfume-in-medical-facilities-or-anywhere-really

A topic worth repeating.

@colleenyoung

This topic is closely related to the discussion that @chicagomichelle @peggyj4411 @ladycat and others started:

* Heavy perfume in medical facilities, or anywhere, really https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/heavy-perfume-in-medical-facilities-or-anywhere-really

A topic worth repeating.

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@colleenyoung Thanks! I didn't know that discussion was there, and it is a good one. I've experienced this too. This is very much like it was back when smoking was allowed in the work place, and I'm probably telling you my age by saying this. It took many years until there was enough awareness and concern that workplace and public spaces policies changed regarding smoking. I see fragrances the same way. Unfortunately some view this as their right to personal expression, and some view it as hygiene… if it smells good, it must be clean. We all know that's not true. I think my mom used Pinesol to mop the floors, and now I'm very allergic to Pine Turpenes, and being exposed to turpentine shuts down my lungs and gives me a big headache. Having reactive lungs is a disability. Mopping the floor with water works pretty well too. Marketing and advertising creates the demand for fragrance in products and then brings the exposure to those who are sensitive that didn't get a choice.

This is a great topic! I was diagnosed with asthma a little over 3 years ago. Doc said that I have probably had it all of my life, but it was late in life when it was diagnosed. Perfumes really are triggers for me, as well as room fresheners, candles, cigarette smoke, and a host of other things. I also have a sweet Manx cat who has asthma and was diagnosed almost 10 years ago. I have to be very careful using different things around him. Yes, he uses Flovent daily and has rescue inhaler in the event he has an attack.

@baz10 Yes, all those are my triggers too. Just smelling smoke on someone's clothes is enough to trigger me. I was just at Mayo seeing a pulmonologist about my breathing issues. I have 3 cats, all short haired rescues that I am allergic to. I didn't think I was allergic because I don't sneeze around them, but my allergy doctor tested me, and sure enough… so I do allergy shots for cats in addition to other things. I thought it was working, but cat dander is sticky and makes phlegm stickier. I was having too much phlegm in my lungs that I was having a lot of trouble clearing. I've figured out that I can tolerate the kitties in the bedroom by wearing a paper surgeon type mask with ear loops when I sleep in addition to the HEPA filter that I have next to the bed blowing on my face. This is working, and I'm not waking up with stuff to clear out, and I do better all day long. We are kind of vulnerable when sleeping while phlegm from allergies collects.

I have heard of cats with asthma too before, so for myself and the kitties I'm looking to get a HEPA robot vacuum and get the room to be nearly allergy free by cleaning it often. I am breathing easier now without inhalers. The masks are 3M # 1820 Procedure Masks with > 99% @ 0.1 Micron particles for bacterial filtration efficiency. I carry them or a respirator around because I never know when I'll be exposed to something irritating to my lungs. I often pet my kitties with a wet hand to wipe off dander or roll a lint roller on them, and of course I do the usual things like encasing the pillows and mattress against dust and vacuuming. It's nice to hear that you take good care of your cat. All of mine were born on the street and came from shelters, and I promised them a good life, and I can enjoy them with a few simple changes on my part.

@jenniferhunter Thank you for this thread. I too am very sensitive to certain odors. I have lost my voice from certain hairspray that was used on someone in the next chair. I sneeze and wheeze. It's so inconsiderate of people who don't stop wearing it in confined spaces!

I am sensitive to heavily fragranced products too. I wish the general public without these sensitivities could be more considerate of those who do suffer from this, but I write it off to ignorance. What I don't understand is why some doctors' offices choose use fragrance plug-ins and in their waiting rooms and small-sized patient restrooms. Health care professionals should know better.

Liked by Jennifer Hunter

@jubilee I agree, healthcare professionals should know better. I have seen a lot of hospital nurses wearing fragrances too even when there is a note on the room door that someone is chemically sensitive to it. I've had conversations with a nurse supervisor about this, but it didn't really help. I'm usually the one who accompanied family members with hospital visits. I can say that when I was a surgical patient at Mayo, no one came in my room with fragrances. I know I can't always choose to come to Mayo for care, but if I lived closer, I sure would. I've never had issues anywhere at Mayo with fragrances on employees or in public spaces.

@jenniferhunter I once asked my PCP how I could best avoid these situations in advance of an outpatient test I was scheduled to undergo at a local hospital (where I knew the restroms were heavily fragranced). The advice was to call the hospital's Risk Management Dept before the day of the test to request special accommodations. That method worked like a charm! The hospital removed the fragrance canister from one restroom, the ones nearest to the area where I would be. I did the same thing in advance of a surgical procedure, and the hospital was very accommodating. In that situation a CNA assigned to my care, who arrived for her shift freshly showered with a strongly fragranced bath product, was made to switch patient assignments with another CNA. We shouldn't even have to take these steps, but working thru Risk Management ahead of time seems to work to keep us safe. My record at the hospital was permanently flagged regarding my fragrance sensitivity.

Liked by Jennifer Hunter

Hi Jubilee, I, too, am extremely sensitive to fragrances and other chemical orders because of asthma. I use green products for cleaning and if I am near someone with perfume, I have to move away. And getting near someone who smokes isn't good for me either. Didn't know there was such a thing as a Risk Management Dept in a hospital. Good to know for future reference.

A while back I reached out to the American Lung Association to ask about any programs they might have to create awareness about fragrance sensitivities after reading through their website and not finding anything about this. Fragrances is not even included on their list of triggers in their Healthy Air initiative. I was interested in volunteering to help create awareness about fragrances. However, their response was only a very short and disappointing "thank you for reaching out to the American Lung Association…to make a donation, please use this link". I checked their website again today, and fragrance is still absent from their initiatives and concerns…despite the fact that more fragranced products are on the market than ever before.

@jubilee

A while back I reached out to the American Lung Association to ask about any programs they might have to create awareness about fragrance sensitivities after reading through their website and not finding anything about this. Fragrances is not even included on their list of triggers in their Healthy Air initiative. I was interested in volunteering to help create awareness about fragrances. However, their response was only a very short and disappointing "thank you for reaching out to the American Lung Association…to make a donation, please use this link". I checked their website again today, and fragrance is still absent from their initiatives and concerns…despite the fact that more fragranced products are on the market than ever before.

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@jubilee Kudos to you for advocating for yourself. Asthma is a disability and there are rules about accommodating disabilities. A person can file a legal claim against an employer, etc about not being able to breathe and an employers refusal to provide an accommodation. I guess that's why risk management is involved because the risk is financial to the hospital. I'm glad they had awareness about it because it is a serious problem that is too often overlooked. I have to say I'm disappointed in the American Lung Association's response to your inquiry. It makes me wonder if they are receiving funding from companies involved with fragrances and don't want to loose the revenue. I think the chemicals are public health hazards and should be banned substances. If you don't have asthma now, you can still acquire it from exposure to chemicals, pollution, and respiratory infections. I was recently at Mayo and found out that my asthma is the worse form called E asthma for the eosinophils (white blood cells) that are present in the airways. It's a form of asthma where it is triggered by allergies. I think this would be a great topic on talk radio or a podcast from a medical facility.

@jenniferhunter I stand corrected regarding the absence of information about fragrances and the American Lung Association website information. I looked through their website more closely this morning. It's not easy to trip across but I did find brief mention of fragrances on their employee wellness and at-home pages at https://www.lung.org/support-and-community/corporate-wellness/create-a-lung-healthy-work.html and https://www.lung.org/our-initiatives/healthy-air/indoor/at-home/keep-pollution-out-home.html. The problem remains that a person really has to be intentionally seeking information on their website, or any website…however, the general public that isn't affected by fragrances and other chemicals probably wouldn't likely be motivated to search for information without good reason. I don't recall ever seeing a public service announcement on TV about this, although a PSA might be a more passive way to educate the public. Maybe those of us who are affected buy sensitivities to fragrances and other chemicals need to let the American Lung Association and other interested organizations know that we need their help to get the word out to the general public.

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