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Dealing with irritants

When I am exposed to perfume, especially the cheap kind that is loaded with chemicals, I get sick and have difficulty breathing. Same thing with going through the cleaning/detergent aisles in the grocery store. Sometimes even the strong scented detergent on people's clothing is hard to take.

I work with the public and cannot tell people that their perfume is making me ill. There are times when a prolonged exposure has made me feel fatigued for days. 

Anyone have ways of dealing with this?

 

 

 

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Comments 479

  • Jen

    That is a tough one.  Can you pretreat with meds before work?  Maybe another question to add to that list for your upcoming appointment.  If it's really bad, can you excuse yourself from the situation or say that you need to wear a mask?  Does the oxygen help with issues from irritants?

  • Kathy P

    Ya know, I had a similar though when I went to clean my bathroom yesterday – the fumes from the cleaners were setting me off. Normally they don't, but since I'm flared, they are. Obviously, that is something I can control though – choose a different cleaner. But it got me thinking.

    It can be hard to avoid things in public though. I do think that is a great topic to discuss with the doc. He may have some ideas of things you can do at work especially. Are the air purifiers you put there helping? Is this more about when someone is standing close to you?

  • Mandy

    When I first started having severe issues, I couldn't handle any smells from detergents, cleaners and toiletries. While things have gotten slightly better, I have had to make lots of changes to the places I go and what I use at home. I still have a hard time with perfume but I remember how horrible it was and yes, it could/can take me out for days. So I empathize and hope you find some things that work for you.

    These are some things that I have tried or want to try keeping in mind what works for one doesn't work for all.

    My hepa filter airpurifies are a God send both at home and at work. A ouch of Essential oil ONLY if you can tolerate it under your nose(I am okay with peppermint and eucalyptus but everything else sets me off so be very careful). Don't bother trying it if you're unsure how you will react. I know when I am desperate to feel like a girl, I'll use my respiratory blend and I can cope enough to get a pedicure It's only happened twice in the last two years but I'll take what I can get. Salt rock lamps are supposed to help purify the air but I have yet to try it. An old nurses trick is to chew gum or a mint to mask a smell. Is it possible to wear a mask and say you have a cold and don't want to spread it when you can anticipate a "smelly" client coming in ?

    Good luck!

     

  • Jen

    Good idea, Mandy.    

    I hear you guys about the detergents, etc.  It seems like that aisle in the grocery store has become way more, um, fragrant in recent years.  It really irritates my nose and sometimes gives me a headache.  My girls have noticed this too.  How do you all handle the cleaning products aisle at the store?

  • K8sMom2002

    The tricky thing is, it's not necessarily the scent that triggers my asthma. It's the "whatever-else-is-there." For instance, my DD isn't triggered by scents, so she likes to indulge in perfumes and lotions. I've always been pretty picky in the scents that I like (light floral scents, nothing heavy or musky), so I've been fairly limiting on the kinds she has.

    But some days even the scents that I find pleasing will trigger a flare.

    Other days? Not so much.

    Sometimes her hairspray (which usually will trigger me if I'm anywhere near) will get me, and other days, I don't even notice she's used any.

    Ditto the cleaning aisle and cleaning products. A friend of DD's uses one scent of a laundry detergent that is usually okay for me — but that particular "flavor" gets me on bad days. 

    I have a diminished sense of smell anyway, so a lot of times the first alert I have that someone is using perfume or a scented cleaner is that awful feeling that my lungs are being snatched out of my body and stomped on.

    I treat the cleaning aisle like I do the junk food aisle — I ONLY go down it if I need something. Since I try to use a lot of DIY recipes for cleaning supplies, I only have to make the trek down it for laundry detergent, bleach, dish soap and dishwasher detergents. 

    Ditto on the perfume counters in department stores — I avoid if at all possible. 

  • Gloria

    Mandy, thank you for your great ideas. I use eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil for other purposes, so I definitely will try those. I can't afford to buy hepa filters (I would probably need two), but I do use a couple of tower electrostatic air purifiers. I think they have only limited results. I like the idea of chewing gum…that's a new one to me. 

    When there is a perfume assault (I had one yesterday), I really wish breathing was optional. But of course, it is not. This lead me to try using my oxygen even if my 02 sat is good. It does help! That is one of the things I plan to discuss with my Pulmo. My oxygen RX is for asthma, so I think it may be a good usage. Better, I would say, than treating with Albuterol after the event.

    My concern about masking odors is that even though the smell may seem less, those irritants are still entering my lungs.

    Regarding wearing a mask, that is a no.

    When I must go through the cleaning aisle in the store, I try to hold my breath, but unfortunately, sometimes it takes me a while to find the product I need. I use the unscented products. They are great! I use Feline Pune cat litter, which is pine sawdust pelllets with no artificial scent.

    I did a little experiment the other day. A friend of mine asked me if good quality perfume bothers me. Perfume quality starts at the highest level as being essential oils and lower qualities have less essential oils and more chemicals. I tried sniffing my Chanel perfume. No problem. Maybe my problem is with quality, maybe with quantity, maybe both.

     

     

     

  • K8sMom2002

    Gloria, I agree that the more inexpensive perfumes tend to get me, although there are really expensive perfumes that will do me in as well. I'm with you, though, on the theory that part of it is the chemicals in perfumes. Sometimes I find that whole lines of perfume will get me, so I wonder if it's not something in the manufacturing process.

  • Gloria

    I think that when people wear perfume, they get used to the smell and keep loading more and more on, so even the good stuff can become very overwhelming.

  • Mandy

    I hear you on the irritation part. That is eventual unless you change jobs or they develop a bubble…which I am desperate for too! All that you can do it try your best. If O2 helps that is great. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Gloria, it's definitely true that people can become noseblind. That could be part of the problem. I just wonder why on earth sometimes I react to DD's lotion and other times I don't? Same bottle, about the same amount, different days and different reactions.

  • Mandy

    I hear you on the irritation part. That is eventual unless you change jobs or they develop a bubble…which I am desperate for too! All that you can do it try your best. It's great that the O2 helps with the irritation.

  • Jen

    Gloria – Glad to hear the oxygen is helping with this also.  

  • Kathy P

    I ran through a real gauntlet of offending smells this morning! I went to the pharmacy. The garbage cans were overflowing from the weekend, so the smell of rotting garbage was overwhelming and was making me gasp. Then there was a guy smoking…yeah I ran by him. And since it rained all weekend, I could smell the mold from all the leaf litter in the green space at the edge of the parking lot! I was coughing so hard by the time I got back in my car! I had to use my inhaler and wait things out a few minutes before I could drive home!

  • K8sMom2002

    I hear ya, Kathy P — DD had to have makeup, so that meant a trip to the department store and the cosmetics counter. Ugh. And the grocery store has moved around their aisles, so I wound up going down the cleaning supply one by accident.

    Gloria, is your oxygen approach helping? Or the air cleaners?

  • Gloria

    Sorry to hear about your cluster of disasters, Kathy P.

    My oxygen is helping, but I am always looking for ways to have better management.

    I. my efforts I have also been taking Mandy's suggeztion and putting essential oil (tea tree) under my nose when I sense assault coming. It helped!

  • Jen

    I have to say that I was happy to skip the cleaning aisle at the grocery store today. It is such an assault on the senses. 

  • Mandy

    Kathy, so sorry you got assaulted by all the smells. That's how I feel about them. It's instant and debilitating! And smoking…it just makes my lungs constrict like someone is squeezing them. I hold my breath and go as fast as I can. I try to buy as much as I can online these days. Perfume is the deal breaker for me. I am not sure why people have to drown themselves in it.

    Gloria glad to have helped. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Mandy, I love, love, love online shopping, but I haven't really connected that one of the reasons I do like it is that I don't have to brave the crowds that are drowning in perfume and body spray and tobacco smoke. Plus, I'm short — 4'10", so I have no hope of getting fresh air in a crowd.

  • Shea

    When I was out at a beach event on the 4th of july, people were smoking near us. I had a handheld fan I brought for the heat, but I held it right by my face to blow the smoke away from me.. and it worked great! It might work for perfumes as well. And, it doesn't have to be handheld.. A small fan at a business office or retail place.. one that blows from behind you to keep the scent away from you…, could help. Keeping a lightweight scarf might be helpful, so you can hold it over your face when passing smokers or perfume aisles… I want to try that one more often, especially since the heat is going down in Florida.

  • K8sMom2002

    Wow, good idea, Shea, and it's a very civil way of doing it! 

    Gloria, do you think that might work for your situation?

  • Gloria

    Great suggestion on the fan, Shea. I'll have to see what I can do with that. I already have two air purifiers there, so hoe would a small fan hurt things?

  • K8sMom2002

    Now, for ME, it wouldn't work perfectly, because I really can't stand drafts — it's a sensory thing, and I get chilled easily. But I think it would work really well to blow smoke or perfume away from you. And I'd endure chills rather than an asthma attack any day.

  • Jen

    There are lots of handheld fan options.  There is also this  that might be better for work.

  • K8sMom2002

    Gloria, are you still using your O2 or have you figured out a different option for the managing the perfume folks?

  • Gloria

    My Pulmo told me that the insurance will not cover oxygen if there is not a problem with my 02 sat. I still have it here, although they will probably pick it up soon. I am going to speak with my Allergist next week, because the 02 really does help during a perfume assault. When I must be face to face with the perfume wearer for a prolonged period, I wish breathing was optional, and I can be sick for days afterward. I hope that counts for something, even though it is "off label use". 

    We had a power surge a couple of days ago and one of my air purifier towers got fried, so now there is only one. My boss says he will replace it, but we will see. Per suggestions here, I did also bring in a fan and I have been putting Tea Tree oil under my nostrils at the first detection of perfume. These things all help!

  • K8sMom2002

    Boo that your air purifier got fried … but that your boss is willing to replace it. Maybe you could drop a few helpful brochures or printouts about air purifiers on his desk? And make sure you have a surge protector on them as well?

    Glad the fan is helping … that sounds like an excellent idea!

  • Gloria

    Would you believe…it got fried even though it was plugged into a surge protector! The phone system did, too.

  • Gloria

    That's another thing I will have to push for. 

    The power surge caused nasty fumes in the store. That made me get a couple of sores in my mouth and I had to use my rescue inhaler twice!

  • Kathy P

    Ugh in the air purifier getting fried! I hope it gets replaced.While I'm glad you don't need the O2, I was so happy for you that it helped. Sorry you are going to lose that option. I hope the other options can help enough so you don't have days-long fallout all the time.I had to leave an event I was helping with last night. It was serving soup and salad to the teachers at school. I had signed up to serve and clean up. Well, someone brought out a bottle of Fantastic to start cleaning tables. I was gasping from the strong odor! Soon it just filled the entire cafeteria. I had to just excuse myself and leave. Ugh!

  • K8sMom2002
    Kathy P posted:
    Well, someone brought out a bottle of Fantastic to start cleaning tables. I was gasping from the strong odor! Soon it just filled the entire cafeteria. I had to just excuse myself and leave. Ugh!

    If I ever achieve world domination , one of my dastardly plans is to round up every strong smelling cleaning solution and lock. it. away. 

    that you couldn't stay to help, but maybe you needed the rest? 

  • Gloria

    Who knows? Maybe my "off label use" for 02 will get approved. It's worth a try, anyway…

    On the other had, please come and take the concentrator.

  • Kathy P

    And the funny part was that the custodian was probably going to have to still wipe them down later with whatever he is required to use! But, I wasn't in charge, so all I could do was walk away!

  • K8sMom2002

    Kathy P, on the odd occasions that someone has brought Lysol into my house, I might have actually hidden it away so that no one could find it and use it. Maybe the next time you help out, you can show up early and kidnap all the Fantastic.

    Gloria, good to know I have back up. Off to dust off my plans for world domination now that I have a mission and a partner!

  • Gloria

    I like the idea of just hiding offending chemical things. Sometimes feigning ignorance is the best and easiest strategy.

  • Kathy P

    I'll admit, I actually like the smell of Lysol cleaner! I don't like the scented sprays, but like the floor cleaner.I think what got to me yesterday is that it was aerosolized.

  • K8sMom2002

    Yes, the aerosol sprays are what do me in — anything aerosol. 

    Hope you get to feeling better!

  • Gloria

    I'm working on it. Sometimes it is quite bad, but I am using Tea Tree oul under my nostrils at first whiff; and if I think it will become overwhelming, I use albuterol to stop the coughing fit. 

  • Gloria

    So far, so good, but he had better pay up soon! Had my V/Q lung scan today. CPX and rhuematologist tomorrow!

  • Gloria

    A V/Q lung scan is a nuclear imaging test where first they take video type images of the air moving through your lungs, then they inject you with a radioactive contrast material and image the blood as it moves through your lungs. Hopefully this will give them a picture of any strictures or other problems in my lungs. I am very interested in finding out the results, because I can feel the tightness in my bronchials.

    The test is a bit uncomfortable, but on a scale of one to ten with chest X-ray being one and lumbar puncture being ten, I would say it is about a five. 

    Tomorrow I see the rheumatologist to determine if I need tests to see if my antiphospholipid syndrome damaged my lungs. (I doubt it.)

    Then after that  (also tomorrow) I have the CPX test at the pulmo's office.

    Friday I see the allergist. 

    It took me about three days to get over the effects of the pneumonia vaccine, but now I feel great!

     

     

  • K8sMom2002

    Thanks for explaining the V/Q lung scan … I'm really hoping it will give you and your doctor some clear answers about what's going on. Good luck with the rest of the tests and appointments this week!

    And on kicking the lingering effects of the pneumonia vaccine — just think, that could save you a ton of illness and lung problems by protecting you from pneumonia!

    Also, I just had a funny ah-ha moment — my DD is studying cells in biology and last night I was calling out her biology terms. One of them was "phospholipid."