If Perfume Makes You Sneeze, It May Be More Serious Than You Think

Photo: Kristina Strasunske/Getty Images.
If your roommate's perfume sends you into a sneezing fit, you're far from the only one. But what you may not know is that fragrance sensitivity might be more serious than you think. For some people, fragrances could even trigger severe symptoms such as migraines and even difficulty breathing.
A new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports found that perfume allergies can even be severe enough to set off asthma attacks, migraines, and respiratory difficulties. In fact, of the nearly 1,100 Australian participants in the study, 17% reported having trouble breathing due to their allergies.
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For the study, Anne Steinemann, PhD, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Melbourne School of Engineering, asked participants to complete a survey about their exposure to products that contain fragrances, such as personal hygiene products, air fresheners, cleaning solutions, and laundry supplies. Dr. Steinemann also had them record any reactions they may have had to these products.
Aside from respiratory issues, 14% of respondents also reported typical mucosal symptoms such as watering eyes or congestion, 10% reported experiencing migraines, and 9.5% had skin problems such as rashes, hives, and tingling skin. 7.6% also reported having asthma attacks, while 5% had neurological symptoms such as fainting or dizziness. And 4.1% reported cognitive issues, such as memory trouble or difficulty concentrating.
And almost 8% said they had missed work or even lost a job in the last year because they felt ill from exposure to perfumes in the workplace.
"Some people feel like they can’t enter public restrooms or walk inside shops because they don’t want to risk an asthma attack," Steinemann told Health.
If you have strong reactions to perfumed products, Steinemann suggested, beyond switching out your products, speaking up about your allergies to the people around you.
"It’s a health hazard and workplace liability that doesn’t help productivity," she told Health.
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