Smell of rubbing alcohol brings on symptoms
Hello, this is an unusual question. I have read about people taking disulfram (antabuse) occasionally becoming sensitive to other alcohols such as in colognes and rubbing alcohol. My trouble is, I have this problem just because of my innate biology. I'm just highly sensitive to alcohol fumes and even other compounds related to alcohol such as the propylene glycol used as a 'carrier' for many scents, and for the flavoring in vaping machines. It's very difficult to avoid all of these in daily life, and it's annoying to family and roommates that I'm so sensitive to so many products. There are some things that I'd like to consider as careers (in health care or veterinary care) that I feel are off-limits to me because of this sensitivity, as they require being around rubbing alcohol all day. I've read, and I've experienced, that the only option I have is to keep avoiding these situations. But I would love to have another solution! Does anyone have any ideas, no matter how 'outside the box'?
Thank you in advance for your help!
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Just a thought. Does wearing a mask help. Definitely won’t look odd wearing one😉. I hope you find a solution.
Thank you, pamiami. I do wear a mask. I think the problem is with my liver; I just don't process alcohol like most people. Missing some enzyme or something.
@scolio How about this for an outside the box idea?
Olfactory desensitization therapy? This is sometimes used in treatment of anxiety or PTSD associated with exposure to specific odors. It can also be used to make life more pleasant/livable with a highly oversensitive sense of smell (hyperosmia.) Perhaps a consult with a neurologist might lead you to a solution.
Thank you for the suggestion. I'm beginning to think, though, that my original hunch that there aren't any real options out there wasn't too far off. It turns out humans have an enzyme named ALDH2 that helps us break down alcohol so it's less poisonous. There is a gene that codes for this enzyme and we each have two copies of this gene. If one of your copies is shoddy, some of your ALDH2 won't work too well and you'll have a worse reaction to alcohol than other folks do. If both of your copies are faulty, you have an even worse problem.
In my case, I don't have a reaction to the scents right away. They are actually rather pleasant at the moment– or at least I used to think so until I finally put two and two together and realized that it is approximately four hours later that my symptoms kick in, feeling like what I've read of descriptions of a migraine , a hangover, and/or a very bad case of the flu. (Horrible head pain, nausea to the point of losing anything in my stomach, no tolerance of light, sound, movement, etc.)
I've never had a genetic test, and I couldn't afford one, but I suspect my problem comes down to
genes, and there's nothing I can do about that . . .
Maybe if I could convince a researcher that I'm actually a mouse, they would let me try a trial of this:
Hi @scolio — while I don't have any solutions for you, I can empathize with your chemical sensitivity issues as I've had a real issue with them for 30+ years as well. This is the first I've heard of a missing enzyme, but that makes sense since I'm missing lots of enzymes needed to metabolize meds. You are correct, it annoys friends, family and colleagues. You find out who your real friends are by those who at least try to avoid adding extra scents before getting together with you. Getting a private office at work really helped my chronic coughing until someone walked in. Working remotely was a blessing. I always went to the first movie matinee of the day (small audience) to not have perfumed people right around me that made me cough and other issues. Soooo many triggers for me. Not just perfume, but scented lotions, deodorant, hair products, etc. I recently had a paint touch up in my bathroom, just 4 square feet of non-toxic paint and within an hour the room was spinning, I was falling down, followed by a number of other neurological issues. That lasted a week before I could sleep in my room again. Never again will there be painting in my home. Strong cleaning solutions freak out my heart. I can't go to homes with candles, air fresheners, pets, flowers, etc. I always go on walks alone because people's products trigger breathing issues for me. It's a real social issue besides a medical one. I asked about allergy shots once, but was told there are none because sensitivity to chemicals is not an allergy per se. You're not alone. I feel your pain and frustration. I hope you find a solution.
Hello, @californiazebra, thank you for your reply! It sounds like you have an even more difficult time than I do! It took me soooo long to figure out what the source of my symptoms was, because of the time delay between exposure and feeling like . . . well, I'll not write that here 🙂
I was interested to read that ALDH2 metabolizes other substances besides just the acetaldehyde from alcohol metabolism. And there are other ALDH (adlehyde dehydrogenase) enzymes (about 19 in all, I believe) that have not been as well studied as ALDH2.
With the ALDH2 deficiency, there was an attempt to formulate a medication for it, but it only helped about 1/3 of the ALDH2-deficient participants, those who had a particular variant/defect of the gene. I think there may have been some toxicity issues also.
I have had Chemical Sensitivities all my life. Rubbing alcohol, nail polish, the remover, shoe polish, oil- based paints. I would feel dizzy, foggy- brained, and would start vomiting, if I were in the car while the gas tank was filled. If I am in a room where people are wearing perfume, my face turns red, my ears start ringing, I get brain fog, and get a hoarse voice. I worked near oil- based printing ink, and am now even more sensitive. I had frequent migraines at that job. I have alcohol intolerance from my Cherokee side. I get, " the Asian Blush," when I sip alcohol. Missing liver enzyme. I had sublingual chemical testing in a double blind study. Positive for Petro- chemical Sensitivities. I have been to the Environmental Health Center in Dallas Texas. They might have suggestions. You can get a consult, or refer you to a Environmental doctor near you. Dr. Alan Levin, in Nevada is a fantastic doctor. I saw him in San Francisco in the 1980s.
BTW, if you you have alcohol intolerance, and petro- chemical sensitivities, chemotherapy for cancer, can be dangerous, and you need an oncologist that understands your situation. Thank God I didn't need chemotherapy for my breast cancer.