Be more considerate of those with fragrance allergies

Strong perfumes can literally harm people

By Janis McMath, Senior Columnist


Out of every possible scent I have had the displeasure of being trapped into smelling, nothing quite churns my stomach like strong perfume. I despise when people wear extremely heavy fragrances.

Let me first say that I have no problem with people applying small amounts of perfume. If a person’s fragrance cannot be smelled an arm’s length away from them, that’s totally acceptable. But if their perfume can turn an elevator into a suffocating experience, I have a problem with that. Some people have fragrance allergies and their lives are made harder by those wearing heavy perfume.

In an article in The Globe and Mail, Dr. Michael Joffres, a professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, said that scent sensitivity is similar to an allergy. He explained that exposure to strong fragrances “can trigger breathing problems, headaches, sneezing, nausea, disorientation and, in extreme cases, [people] can go into shock similar to the reaction those with a peanut allergy might have.” In recent years people have become extremely sensitive and considerate about peanut allergies—so what about fragrance allergies?

Frustratingly, people do not seem to care as much about fragrance allergies as they do about food allergies. An article by the highlighted this by reporting on a story in which a patient accused nurses and medical professionals at the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife of using products with strong fragrances, even though their hospital has a scent-free policy. It is astounding that there are healthcare professionals who would be willing to prioritize anything over their patient’s health, let alone something as trivial as strongly-scented hand cream. It seems that the seriousness of fragrance allergies is not even appreciated in a place where health is prioritized, so it is very important that we change the way people think about the consequences of using strongly-scented products.

Scent sensitivity can be a serious threat, which means perfume is something we all need to be considerate of. The Globe and Mail article states that 80 percent of all of the 4,000 chemical ingredients used in scented products have not been tested for their toxicity to humans, so people with fragrance allergies have no way of knowing what they’re allergic to and what to avoid. Dr. Joffres stated that people with scent sensitivity “are falling through the cracks of the current medical system.” Because of this oversight, we need to be more considerate of those who cannot handle perfumes until research can help better protect those with scent sensitivities.

If you’re going to wear a fragrance out, just remember to be cute and non-toxic.