How do you deal with irritants that are SMELLS

There is a great thread going about avoiding irritants but how do you deal with it when it is SMELLS?  I know to avoid the out the door line at Sams because it's buy the tires and rubber is one thing I've been able to identify that will every time give me problems (so much for crocks too) but when your stuck by someone that has on perfume or cologn or in my case-even some soaps-what do you do?  If I can get up and move, I do, but that's not always possible.  I"m terrified that our vacation will get off to a bad start being on the airplane with someone wearing perfume or that reeks of cigarette smoke.  The flight is a little over 4 hours and if I have to be around them that long, we very well may be diverting to another airport and an ER.  


Comments 32

  • K8sMom2002

    Hugs, PLJohns! Smells/odors are a trigger for me, too. But something you said made did make me want to ask you about any latex allergies:

    Pljohns posted:

    I know to avoid the out the door line at Sams because it's buy the tires and rubber is one thing I've been able to identify that will every time give me problems (so much for crocks too)   

    Have you ever had an allergic reaction to latex? Have you and your doctor discussed testing for it?

    On a more practical side of things, have you read up on  That has loads of good general advice for folks who will be traveling. 

    Some other ideas:

    • Can you ask your doctor to write a letter stating that your asthma is triggered by strong smells/perfumes/fragrances?
    • Can you work with your doctor about any tweaks ahead to your asthma action plan? Pre-treating, ahead, perhaps?
    • Can you call the airlines you'll be using and ask for whatever accommodations they can give you? I'd clarify for instance:
      • "Will it be okay for me to ask the flight attendant to move to another seat? Can I get clearance ahead for this?"
      • I know you've mentioned your fellows are tall, but you might ask about the possibility of , either in front of a bulkhead or behind. That would mean one less row of people ahead or behind you.  I know we wound up sitting in front of the galley on our flight from China when we adopted our DD, and it worked well for us. But we ARE smallish people. 
      • Another possibility is springing for the cost of an extra seat between you and your DH and your two sons, if you can purchase seats where your sons are ahead of you and you and your DH are in front of a bulkhead, or your sons are behind you and you and your DH are behind a bulkhead. It would be pricey, but it would again reduce your exposure. We sprang for an extra seat for our DD on the way back from China, and it was the best money spent EVER. 
      • It may be cheaper to upgrade your tickets to business class or even first class where airlines tend to be more accommodating in general, and with first class, you also get access to a concierge level lounge at airports where you can wait. Fewer people, less odds of a perfume/soap assault.
      • A mask may help … it helps some folks, and I know you've used your dirt bike mask in the past. Gigi has had success with cloth masks. 
      • I'd also weigh the pros and cons of whether a non-stop flight is the best approach, or whether building in a layover might work better. 
        • Non-stop means you get it over and done with and you're not stuck in an airport with similar challenges.
        • Non-stop also means dealing with only ONE airline for possible accommodations.
        • But layovers mean that if you get stuck on a plane with a perfume-y person, the end is in sight a lot more quickly. 
    • Another thing I'd check on is the … that may help you get through security check-ins more quickly, which would decrease the odds that you'll encounter a person with perfume/soap/other smells. 
    • Also, call your hotel that you'll be staying in — call them directly (not the 1-800 number for reservations) and ask to speak with concierge services or whoever handles ADA requests. Explain about your asthma and ask them if they could avoid using strong scented cleaning agents in your room and if they would mind leaving the bathroom fan and the room AC on prior to your check-in. 

    I'm sending good that you'll have a fabulous vacation and that you won't have a bit of trouble. One good thing that I've noticed … people tend to show up for flights these days looking like they just rolled out of bed. It's definitely a lot more "come as you are" rather than "Sunday church service" like it used to be. So maybe that will mean that folks won't have drowned themselves in perfume. 

  • Pljohns

    Yes I have been tested for latex and no such luck-no reaction-just the smell that gets me going.

    Thank you so much for the traveling tips-some of them I had not thought of.  Bulkhead seating is now premium seating and the cost of it or the cost of purchasing the extra seat just isn't an option for us.  I wish it was, but it just isn't.  I've upgraded us as high as I can afford for 4 of us to travel.  DH refuses to have a trip with any stops-it's not so much a "get it done" things so much as it is just a pain that he refuses to deal with.  We were also concerned with a layover that arrival planes would be late and we'd end up running through an airport and that would do me in right off the bat.  I had a hard enough time getting him to agree to ANY vacation, I'm working on his terms as much as I can so I don't have a grumby, fussing DH to deal with. 

    I hadn't thought about calling the airlines ahead of time.  We are traveling at non-peak times and hoping that the plane isn't full-what are the odds that THAT MANY people would be going from Atlanta to San Diego on that date.  That's an odd destination from this part of the country-now LAX or DFW or even Orlando-those would definitely be sold out, but hopefully not San Diego.  I'm a skymiles member so I get the lounge anyway-thank goodness-and had already planned on arriving at the airport at least 3 hours early to clear TSA without a huge line.  The pre-TSA check is expensive-especially for 4 of us.

    I have already talked with the hotel directly and they were very accommodating and noted our reservation with the request.  At least we will be out of the room most of the day so anything they use should be cleared by the time we get back.

    Any suggestions are greatly apprecaited-I'm on a tight budget so there aren't a lot of "extra" options but I've never flown with my asthma and already have the whole neb and meds things to get cleared. I think I have a good understanding of that-now I just have to get it all done.  I have a f/u with pulmo in 2 weeks so the letter was already on my list as well as discussing with him any pre-flight treatments etc.that he would recommend.  I guess I"m nervous, but I can't tell DH because taking care of everything for this trip has fallen to me and DS#2 so I don't dare say anything about it being a pain or I'll hear the "I told you so" routine.

  • Pljohns

    ooooo-airline people can be snotty!  I called the flying with disabilities line and the lady was pretty snotty that I didn't have a "legitimate" disability that needed oxygen or other obvious assistance, so I called the customer service/reservations line-they weren't much better-they informed me they couldn't control people wearing perfume on a flight and just what exactly was I asking for?  I just let them know that I was trying to ensure that, if that happened, I could ask for a different seat and I would have nebulizers etc with me that had to be kept with me-not in the over head half way back in the plane.  They finally told me anyone could ask for a different seat if there was one available but their tone of voice was really snotty. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Grrrr …. well, now, that wasn't helpful at all, was it?! Do you think it was just that one person and that you might call back and ask to speak to a supervisor? 

    As for your DH, I swear, our DHs must be long lost brothers! (Or is it that southern mamas of a certain era screwed up lives for their DILs everywhere? ) 

    Good move to fly at off-peak times! Hopefully your plane will not be crammed full of perfume-y people!

  • Pljohns

    hahahaha  It must have been southern mama's of that era-they thought men shouldn't lift a finger to do anything and now that has translated into DH's that don't think they should have to!  DH really does do a fair amount to help me and I've had to learn that he may not do it as quickly as I want or the way I want, but I didn't have to do it, so it's OK.  Having said that-we have NEVER traveled as a family except 3 road trips when the kids were smaller and I swore then-NEVER AGAIN-that's why I went for the airline this time.  I may have problems, but DH can't know and it can't cause him any problems or I will NEVER hear the end of it.

  • K8sMom2002

    I so know what you're going through. Hate that there's another person on this planet who has to keep a stiff upper lip.

    DH is a good guy and he really wants to help, but I think his main problem is he is a guy, and guys are ruled by his "fix-it or forget-it" mentality. When I do something that reminds him that I have health issues, he feels that loss of control and that inability to "fix it," and he just wants to figure out the quickest way NOT to be reminded of it.

    Also, vacays with DH are never pleasant because he is NOT a good traveling companion. Over the years I've figured out the following "best practices" that make things go more smoothly. Maybe since your guy is a Southern Classic, too, this will help?

    • Any vacation needs at least three points of interest:
      • first stop will be DH's second most desired point of interest — it keeps him cheerful and cooperative on the outbound leg.
      • second stop is for me (or DD) … if it's for DD, then I can usually tuck in a third stop for me.
      • Third (or 4th) stop is DH's most desired point of interest — it keeps him cheerful and cooperative during the rest of the journey, because once he sees that, he wants to go home.
    • After the last stop, head home ASAP. Do not pass go, do not collect $200, but go straight home.
    • Schedule the return trip so that it's a day earlier than the last day of DH's vacay, and so that we get home before dark. (Don't ask. ) 
    • Print out menus of any sit-down restaurant we may be going to and let DH pick one. (I did this pre-food allergies, but now it's a must since we manage a corn allergy.)
    • While DD can be trusted to pack for herself, DH can't. The last time I let him lay out his clothes to pack, we were heading to Walt Disney World, and he somehow managed to just pack ONE pair of pants. Of course it was my fault.
    • Make sure that DH sees the brochures ahead of time for the exhibits or places we will be seeing so that he can manage his expectations. Expectations minus reality = disappointment.
    • Car trips are better than flying for DH, but one must be prepared to stop frequently in order to indulge his fidgety ADHD. 
    • Create a day-by-day schedule and buy tickets IN ADVANCE. Otherwise, DH will sit in the hotel room all day watching ESPN. 
    • Hotels need to hit the "sweet spot" … midway between budget and very nice. Too budget = roach motel, too luxe = uncomfortable DH. (Although, I have to say that got better after our trip to China, where we stayed at some extremely high end hotels that provided us terry cloth robes and slippers, plus concierge service.)
    • If one can arrange it, have a friend of DH's rave about whatever DH is going to see. Because of course friends are much more reliable than a wife who puts in hours of research and knows her DH like the back of her hand.
    • If one cannot arrange it, make sure that DD tells DH she really, really wants to see XYZ because of course DD can wrap her daddy around her little finger. 
    • Avoid cruise ships, beaches, art museums, extreme temperatures, and/or off-the-grid resorts where one would relax and sit and soak or hang out in a hammock. Also avoid foreign countries (China was his one exception, and that was because we were going to adopt DD.) 
    • Pray that DH one day succumbs to the charms of golf so that you can park him on a golf course while YOU have fun at the beach, art museum, or just lying around in a hammock.
  • Pljohns

    I LOVE your rules and yes, most of them definitely apply to my DH as well.  Driving is TOTALLY out for him-I would rather take a beating than be in a car with him or all of them longer than 5 minutes.

    I've tried to plan this trip to include things that everyone has mentioned they want to do and planned what to do each day so no one has an entire day that they are going to hate.  I managed to get us in a hotel within walking distance (less than a block) of some of the things we want to do.  It's the hotel chain that we normally stay at and have never had a bad stay yet-

    We will get home on Wed night and DH is off the rest of the week AND the time difference is to our advantage coming back.  DH and DS#2 are lucky-neither of them requires more than about 4 hours of sleep a night to be up and perfectly functional the next day so getting home at 11:00PM is no big deal-they would still be up anyway.

    Hopefully it will go OK and everyone will enjoy it-if not, DS#2 and I will have a miserable trip.  Gotta love Southern Boys!!!!

  • K8sMom2002

    Fingers crossed! It sounds like you know your charges well, and that you have earned your "Family Entertainment and Activities Director" title!

  • Pljohns

    Don't know about that-I'm just trying to at least have some fun myself and can't do that with fussing guys!

  • Kathy P

    I've had this issue on planes! Being stuck next to someone who is drenched in perfume/cologne. I take a mask or use my scarf as a mask. I almost always wear a scarf when traveling – I can use it as a mask/filter, wrap up in it, etc.

    When we travel as a family, we are often a group of 4. We pick seats across the aisle from each other – so 2 and 2. That way, I can whichever kid chooses to sit with me in the middle as a buffer! Or I make DH take the buffer seat. Or depending on the plane, we'll try to get seats on the side that is only 2 seats across and do 2 consecutive rows. Booking early helps w/ seat selection. And when flying with DH, he has airline status and can get better seats w/o paying for the upgrade Meanwhile, I'm traveling by myself on Sunday and have a cruddy seat!

  • K8sMom2002

    Ugh on the cruddy seat, Kathy P … I hope you luck out and don't have to deal with a perfume assault!

  • Pljohns

    Kathy-sorry for the cruddy seat-we have the 2 and 2 with one in between so each of the kids could have a window seat and DH could have an isle and me an isle.  I hope no one is drenched in the junk

  • Jen

    pljohns – sounds like you've planned this trip out pretty well.  I hope it keeps all of your guys reasonably happy.

    As for smells, I thought of you this morning when I was pumping gas.  Boy was that odor strong.  Do gas station smells set anyone off?

  • Jen

    I thought about this thread over the weekend.  DD2 and I went to a local street festival.  One of the vendors was selling homemade bubbles and advertising them by blowing them out of one of those big bubble machines.  They were scented and landing right in people's faces.  I sure hope they didn't trigger anyone's asthma.

  • Pljohns

    I haven't found a way to combat this yet-smells are major triggers for me and because it's rarely the same smell twice, I never really know.  The only one that is a sure fire every time is rubber tires-

  • Jen

    Lynn – When you start to detect an irritating smell, is there anything you can do to keep things from progressing?

  • K8sMom2002

    Jen, I don't know about @Pljohns, but one thing that has helped me combat perfume scents is to breathe through my mouth and take long, slow breaths. If I can grab a deep lungful of "clean" air, I do that — kind of like I'm swimming underwater.

    For instance, before I go up the cleaning supply aisle, I'll take in a deep breath and let it out very slowly. If I have to breathe in some of the scent, I concentrate and focus on not panicking, telling myself, "This will be over soon, and panicking will just make things tighter." 

    And of course, I get away as fast as I can!

    Sometimes if the scent exposure is very brief, I can avoid a full-on attack. And if I'm stuck, then following my doctor's advice and using my inhaler right away when I sense I need it helps. 

  • Pljohns

    That's a great idea-unfortunately it doesn't work for me.  I pretty much end up taking really shallow breaths until I can get away from whatever it is.  Once it gets in my lungs, its there and the problems start.

  • K8sMom2002

    Sometimes it doesn't work for me, either, Lynn — and I'm not necessarily breathing deeply — just slowly, conserving my good air. I think the main thing that helps is for me to remember these things:

    • Move away as fast as I can UPWIND
    • Try not to panic.  
    • Try not to cough (for me, coughing alone can trigger an asthma attack.)
    • Use my inhaler as soon as I know I need it. If I wait an attack out, sometimes it can get ugly.
  • Pljohns

    I'm right there with you-I move away as fast as I can, try to stay calm and not cough and keep my neb handy to use if I see I'm going to need it.  It's really tough when you're in a store that you're not use to and you turn up a row and it's filled with soap or stuff like that.  I've nearly flattened some people doing quick turn arounds with a buggy to get off the row.

  • K8sMom2002

    I knew there was a reason I never ventured to new stores! I hate even going to a different Wal-Mart or Kroger.

  • Pljohns

    I hear you!  Restaurants are bad too-everyone bathes in perfume before they go out to eat!!  We've had to leave a few times and ask for a different seat a few times and it just makes you want to scream at them and make the realize that their vanity is optional-breathing isn't!

  • Jen

    Public bathrooms!  I thought about this thread today when we were van shopping.  I stopped to use the restroom at the dealership and there was a very strong fragrance scent (as opposed to regular bathroom smells ) – not sure if it was air freshener or some sort of cleaner.  It wasn't necessarily a bad scent, but it was pretty overpowering.

  • Pljohns

    OH yes!  I hadn't thought about those but yes, WHY do people feel the need to overwhelm everyone with scents?  I guess the think it has to smell to be clean but clean smell and strong scents are two totally different things!

  • Jen

    What smells have been asthma triggers/irritants for you this summer?  Who has issues with sunscreen or bug spray?  What about things like fertilizer?

  • Pljohns

    YES to all of them!!  Sunscreen big time-I messed up and got makeup that had sunscreen in it-flatly couldn't wear it at all.  Bug spray, weed killer, fertilizer-all of them get me going.

  • K8sMom2002

    Jen, I hear you on public restrooms. The restroom in the grocery where I shop uses liquid hand soap that smells like the cheapest and strongest after shave. I've forgotten a couple of times and used their restroom — or let DD use their restroom — and it's been awful. I carry the smell with me all the way home, and I have to scrub and scrub to clean it. 

    Lynn, I wonder if television marketing hasn't made people paranoid about odor. They've definitely told people that you may not be able to detect your own bad scents (your house, your underarms, your breath, your feet). So now maybe people are so nervous that they think, "Okay, if I can smell something strong and perfume-y, then at least I don't stink?"

    But I prefer a clean smell of just plain soap and water to perfume. 

  • Pljohns

    I agree-I think if people smell lotion or something on themselves, they think it smells great to everyone.

  • Shea

    I only buy sunscreen that has zinc oxide only in it, and nothing else. A lady once told me that some of the chemicals they put in sunscreen that start with oct- and oxy- are being linked to cancers. That is all hear-say but my skin does better with zinc oxide only sunscreens anyways, so it is what I do if I am going to be out in the sun for while.

    I have read that houseplants remove VOCs from the ait and provide oxygen (but you have to be careful about mold in the soil and not bringing in too many or the humidity gets too high).

    Then I have been reading up on ERV's that provide air exchange and ventilation in homes and buildings and is linked with good indoor air quality, healthy levels of oxygen/co2, ventilates out voc's and stale air, brings in filtered fresh ait… and you can get ones for smaller spaces for $350. Interesting information. 


  • Pljohns

    Shea-good info on the sunscreen and the info to remove VOC's from the air.  I kill house plants-probably the only person that even kills silk flowers-I accidentally sucked them up in the vacuum.  The ERV sounds interesting-I may have to look into that-

  • K8sMom2002

    Lynn, you're not the only person who kills houseplants — if houseplants had post offices, it would be me on the "most wanted" poster. Wanted for Herbicide!

    I try not to keep that many silk plants, either, because for me they're just one more thing to dust — and to keep. DH's mom loved silk flowers because she could keep them (she was the type of lady who saved every Valentine's Day heart box when she finished her candy), so he took some training to get him out of that habit. 

    I'm hoping technology can make for smaller, more discreet air filtration devices.