Simply breathing isn't always all that simple for everyone. Keep in mind that I have no known allergies, except this "SCENTSitivity" issue. (Sorry, couldn't resist. Heh heh) Nor have I even been diagnosed with asthma. But I DO have some of these symptoms when it comes to to scents. It can be quite scary, as those who do deal with asthma and/or allergies can understand.
"Asthma can be triggered or worsened by exposure to fragrance. Symptoms of asthma include bouts of coughing, wheezing, or an audible whistling sound upon exhaling, shortness of breath, and chest tightness, or a feeling of constriction. These symptoms can progress into a life-threatening asthma attack if symptoms are not treated properly. Asthma symptoms can also appear at the beginning of a deadly allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock. Wheezing, shortness of breath, facial swelling, urticaria, or severe itching all over the body, tightness in throat, and asthma are all symptoms that can happen during anaphylaxis; this reaction must be treated immediately or can be deadly. Although such a severe reaction is rare, there have been documented cases of scent causing this reaction." (http://www.ehow.com/list_5955431_signs-symptoms-allergies-scents.html)
As Hayley knows all too well, I have strong reactions to many scents - but not the typical allergy symptoms (itchy/watery eyes, rash, etc). Instead, I have asthmatic symptoms: wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing (to the extent that I become nauseous and/or vomit), headaches, lungs burning, migraines, etc. Exhausting, to say the least. Other than fresh air, the only thing that has helped at all is an inhaler (previously prescribed when I had pneumonia - no longer have a prescription). And these symptoms can last all day!
Even things labeled "unscented" are not necessarily fragrance-free. My worst reactions are to ANYTHING from Bath and Body Works. The only cologne (NOT the perfume!) I seem to tolerate - so far, and in moderation of course - is Navy...and only the spray.
Other triggers include:
Some (but, ironically, not all) cleaning supplies and aerosols.
...and more (can't think of them all right now)
Of course, there are exceptions to all of these categories. It's just difficult to find them - and becoming more so, even though more and more companies are trying to go with "natural" scents. But just because I love most scents in nature, it does not mean I can tolerate all "natural" scents. For instance, now that Pantene no longer makes the shampoo and conditioner I used, I decided to try the (less-costly) Almond + Shea Butter from Suave Professionals. In the store, it did not seem bad. But using it is one of the few times I do experience stinging/burning in my eyes...along with my usual symptoms...without it even getting into my eyes. Another product that produces the same reaction is Softsoap's Ultra Rich Shea Butter Crème body wash. I would say it's the Shea butter, but I did not have any problems when using the natural form.
As previously mentioned, even products labeled as being unscented can be a problem. Hayley likes the scented deodorants, but we've bought "unscented" ones that sometimes caused some of my worst reactions. (Yet I can use Secret if it's the basic formula in Baby Powder scent. Which, unfortunately, Hayley does not like.) Same with certain "unscented" laundry products.
Why am I posting this, of all topics, on my blog after not posting anything of interest in a very long time? Because I had yet another bad attack today. After several attempts (and for years) in asking Hayley not to use stuff that triggers these attacks - at least not when she is home, or will be anywhere near me - she still doesn't quite understand just how serious this is.
But it may be helpful to/for others as well. I advise anyone considering giving scented gifts/flowers (for anyone - not just our household) to at least check with the recipient(s). Best bet is to not give such gifts at all.
Obviously, I can't avoid ALL triggers. But I do the best I can. Hopefully people have a better understanding. I certainly do - especially as my own symptoms worsen over the years - of what it's like for those with similar health issues. (I really do need to discuss this with my doctor...when/if I ever get health insurance again. But that's another story...)
Except in my constant battle with my daughter over this, it's not as serious an issue as it could be. Yes, there are more and more triggers these days, but at least I can still enjoy (most) smells of nature: campfire smoke, (most) trees, pine needles, the earthy dampness of even swamps, Lake Superior's wonderfully clean fresh scent (YES - water has a scent...different water has different scents), other woodsy scents...and more! Thank goodness for that! :^)