May 26, 2018
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Be “scentsible” when wearing perfume

By Carol Higgins Taylor

You never know when it will happen. You are minding your own business, when suddenly you encounter someone who is drenched in fragrance. This happens to me on a regular basis and as the waves of heavily scented air wash over me, I can feel my nose getting stuffy.

I don’t have severe fragrance allergies, but sometimes these events are pretty uncomfortable as I become increasingly congested and eventually develop a headache. While I am not calling for a ban on all things scented, I do think it is time to review our habits.

Many workplaces have become “fragrance free” in order to protect employees and customers who may have fragrance allergies.

Eastern Area Agency on Aging has such a policy. Staff and clients can suffer terribly when someone enters the building wearing perfume. I myself have had to shut my office door and open my window more than once when a visitor has been a little heavy-handed with the cologne.

All of us at EAAA have a responsibility to our clients. We ask that if you are coming to EAAA, please refrain from wearing any products that are scented. We often have seniors visiting us who are on oxygen or have other lung disorders. Since heavy fragrances can linger for hours in our small offices, these individuals end up suffering or are forced to leave without getting the help they need.

Many people are careful about perfume but will wear heavily scented lotion, hair products or deodorant, or their clothes may have been tumbled with a scented dryer sheet. They don’t realize that this is still fragrance and can be harmful to someone who is sensitive.

And make no mistake. Men are not exempt. Aftershave can have lethal effects on someone with fragrance allergies.

We live in a world where just about everything has an aroma, including soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorants, lotions, make-up, toothpaste, scented tissues and toilet

paper and even magazines.

Here are just some of the reactions that can be experienced by someone with allergies or related health concerns:

  1. Nausea or dizziness
  2. Headache
  3. Itchy skin, eyes and nose
  4. Runny nose
  5. Wheezing and coughing
  6. Difficulty breathing
  7. Sore throat
  8. Asthma attacks or asthma-like symptoms

Often all it takes is a brief encounter with the offending odor for symptoms to occur. And things that were never bothersome before suddenly may be a problem.

For example, have you ever noticed your eyes becoming itchy or your nose becoming runny

when you put on a favorite fragrance? Maybe you become wheezy, start coughing or have trouble breathing when getting close to someone who is clearly drenched in perfume? You may be having an allergic reaction and should consider visiting your health care provider.

For those who appear to be first-time sufferers, the reaction is often blamed on seasonal

allergies and not something as seemingly innocuous as clothes that have been tumbled with an odorous dryer sheet.

Keep in mind that fragrances are chemical compounds. Just because you may have become allergic to one scented product does not necessarily mean that you will be allergic to all fragrances. Next time you feel a reaction, make a note of your environment and what you are using.

Read labels and look for the term “fragrance-free” on products rather than “unscented, organic and all-natural” as these may still be lightly scented.

Clean air has the best fragrance of all.

Save the date. The fifth annual Senior Expo will be held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, May 20, at

Spectacular Event Center, Griffin Road. There will be dozens of exhibitors, screenings and door prizes. Don’t miss it!

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging. Email Carol Higgins Taylor at For information on EAAA, call 941-2865, or toll-free 800-432-7812, email, or visit TTY 992-0150.

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