Fragrance Allergy Explained: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
As fragranced products become more and more demanded and supplied, a number of people with a fragrance allergy or sensitivity is growing. You can be exposed to fragrances in many ways: through scented candles or fragrance advertising inserts in fashion magazines; through some dish-washing liquids or shampoos; through a friend of yours wearing a new perfume, or when passing by a cosmetics store. And while you can switch your shampoo or get rid of the fashion magazine with the inserts, keeping your allergies under control outside your home may be quite difficult.
What Are the Symptoms of Fragrance Allergies?
Fragrance allergies or sensitivities may cause reactions ranging from mild to severe. The symptoms can include:
- Runny nose, sneezing, and watery eyes;
- Headaches and dizziness;
- Difficulty breathing and wheezing;
- Itchy skin, hives and other rashes.
American Academy of Dermatology positions fragrances as the main cause of cosmetics allergy reactions like contact dermatitis. In fact, according to studies, more than 2 million people are affected by this type of sensitivity alone, and the number is rising. Some experts believe that one of the reasons for the prevalence of fragrance allergies these days is that fragrances themselves are now a very important component of our world. Research shows that various beauty, cleaning and laundry products we use in everyday life contain about five thousand different fragrances and innumerable fragrance combinations, which may sometimes be too strong, and even toxic.
Why Do Allergic Reactions to Fragrances Occur?
Experts say that some factors related to internal geometry of the nose, such as the number of olfactory receptors can affect our sense of smell. This means that some of us can smell things more vividly than others. For example, according to specialists, women (mostly during their reproductive period) are able to smell and detect odors more intensely and clearly than men. Besides, after repeated exposure to certain scents, some women become more and more sensitive to them.
In most cases, the symptoms of fragrance allergies disappear when you are not exposed to the trigger. Nevertheless, those who have been exposed to the allergen repeatedly may experience symptoms that are more serious and last longer.
In addition, reactions triggered by exposure to a fragrance are not always associated with allergies. Sometimes, products containing fragrances may cause an irritant reaction that has nothing to do with your immune system. However, it is still not clear why exactly these kinds of reactions occur.
Some researchers argue that people who react to a fragrance react to the chemicals used in its formulation, rather than the fragrance itself. Therefore, certain “unscented” products may also cause sensitivity problems due to various chemical agents used to mask unpleasant odors.
To determine the actual cause of your allergy, you can try using different products, including those that are fragranced and unscented. If unscented options don’t cause a reaction, you are likely to be allergic to the scent. If you still experience the symptoms with unscented products, the reaction is most likely linked to the chemicals. In this case, you can identify the exact trigger of your symptoms with the help of a professional.
How to Control Fragrance Allergies?
When it comes to allergy treatment in general, the best thing to do is to avoid exposure to the trigger. The same rule applies to fragrance allergies. However, when avoiding is difficult or impossible, you can still find ways to manage your symptoms.
Raising awareness about fragrance sensitivities is one important thing you can do to reduce the risk of accidental exposure. For instance, you can ask your employer to help you educate the personnel about the problem and what can be done to control it.
If your fragrance allergy causes you to have annoying symptoms at work, experts recommend reducing contact with other people. Thus, you can change your workstation location, moving away from the person wearing a strong, irritating fragrance or from common areas like bathrooms or kitchens. Modifying your work schedule can also help to avoid contact with colleagues. You can come to work and leave earlier than others to reduce the amount of time you are exposed to fragrances. Allergists suggest that people with severe fragrance allergies should use an air purifier and/or a portable fan that can help to reduce your exposure to various odors. Make sure to choose an air cleaner with an appropriate filter like gas or carbon. It is also a good idea to find ways to telecommute and modify your methods of communication. Working from home making use of the Internet, email, phone or fax can help to limit contact with people wearing fragrances that trigger your allergies.
There are also various prescription and over-the-counter allergy medicines available, that can help to control the symptoms. If you need to be concentrated, make sure to choose non-sedating medications. Talk to your doctor about your best treatment options.