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Adrienne Dellwo

Sensitivity to Fragrance in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

By April 1, 2010

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The central sensitivity of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome make us sensitive to all kinds of things, and a biggie for some of us is smells -- especially artificial fragrances. Some people have full-blown multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) as an overlapping condition, while others of us have less of a problem.

My mother, who's otherwise very healthy, has always gotten headaches and nausea when exposed to certain types of fragrance. Walking into a candle shop, for example, is a nasty experience for her. She can tolerate most perfumes, some brands of scented body wash, and most natural fragrances, but over the years she's become sensitive to more and more things.

I'd never had this problem. Recently, however, I walked down the candle aisle of a store and immediately got a stabbing pain right between the eyes. Seconds later, I started feeling sick to my stomach and a bit dizzy. Since then, I've been testing myself. I can't tolerate the overwhelming mixture of scents in an aisle full of products, but at least so far I haven't had a problem with a single fragrance. I seem to be OK with essential oils and body-care products as well.

The people who really have a serious problem get sick around all kinds of smells -- shampoo, deodorant, that new-car smell, a wide range of chemicals, and the list goes on. It's a true allergic reaction and then some. The symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity can be severe and are extremely similar to those of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, so it can be hard to sort out which illness is causing which symptom. The chemically sensitive person can react to minute amounts of a problem chemical, so it's often hard for people around them to understand how in the world it can bother them. Not all doctors believe in MCS or know how to identify it. Here's a site with lots of information on MCS: MultipleChemicalSensitivity.org

Do you have multiple chemical sensitivity, or problems with certain odors? What bothers you, and what are your symptoms? How does it impact your fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms? How did you track down your problem chemicals/fragrances? Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


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April 1, 2010 at 8:15 am
(1) lloyd says:

Sensitivity to sound, color, smell, light–the symptoms are so common to fibromyalgics that I don’t see how someone with fibromyalgia can discern another disorder (multiple chemical sensitivity) on top of it. We have such a basket of goodies with FMS, do we really need more labels?

From Adrienne: If an added label gives you a way to feel better, YES! Once someone knows which chemicals bother them, they can lessen their symptoms by lessening their exposure. It may not be easy to figure it all out, but it can definitely be worth it. ~Adrienne

March 31, 2011 at 7:22 pm
(2) Ellen says:

I agree – finding the cause is not the same thing as ‘adding a label’ .

April 1, 2010 at 8:10 pm
(3) Glenda says:

I have MCS which came about after being exposed to high levels of chemicals on a daily basis while working as a hairdresser many years ago. This led to CFS when many years later my body was unable to detox the chemicals outgassing from new paint, synthetic carpet and lino in my home. I have since learnt that whenever I am bothered by the smell of perfume etc. which gives me cognitive impairment and depression, it is my body’s way of letting me know to remove myself as soon as possible as it is unable to detoxify those chemicals at the time. I also notice I react more when I am feeling stressed.

April 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm
(4) Wendy says:

I react to most artificial perfumes and scents(think “Poison” – what an apt name!)and other chemical odors. I work in a chain pharmacy, and the assault on my nose is almost constant. Starting with the detergent and air freshener aisle then heading over to the candles and pot pourri; add in dozens of women, all of whom wear a different brand of perfume, who seem to need to bathe in the stuff and end with the men who like-wise bathe in their after shave, I have constant headaches, clogged sinuses, sore throat, nausea and body aches. I was telling one of my managers…first you bathe using one very highly scented body wash, then you shampoo (another smell) and use conditioner, then you use a (differently scented) powder; then you put on clothes that have been washed (in a detergent that is scented) and dried with a fabric softener (again, different scent). And THEN you pile on that perfume, scented cosmetics (have you ever smelled Cover Girl foundations and powders? They REEK!!!), hair spray and fabric fresheners. Good grief, people don’t smell good by the time they are done drowning themselves in this stuff, there is just a cloud of stench that follows them around. I have to step away from some folks (and hold my breath)because they smell so bad to me.
My work literally makes me sick because of this problem…I need the job, so leaving is not an option. And this is not a problem that can be handled with “reasonable accomodations”. So what can we do?
Why do some people feel compelled to walk around in their own little cloud of overpowering smells? And why do people feel free to inflict their stink on me?

February 4, 2011 at 10:12 pm
(5) Paul says:

Hi I thought i was alone i get so sick i pray for HELP Most People do not understand how Bad i feel when i smell ( sin take it ) smell .Yes thats what i call call it Im hopeing for better days

April 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm
(6) Wendy says:

Forgot to mention – I became sensitive to chemicals after I was exposed to pesticides that were being used to fumigate a greenhouse. I was working at a bench in the greenhouse, and the guy who was spraying was all dressed up in a space-suit get up, and there I was in a pair of shorts and a
t-shirt… sheesh

April 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm
(7) Bo says:

As a child, when the vacuum was used, I had to leave the house as the ordor emitting from the bag created multiple problems and I could not tolerate the noise. Now I perfer non carpted flooring, then I can Swiffer or broom sweep and damp mop. On carpeting I use a Carpet Sweeper between (less frequent) vacummings.

Since I was a child, I have not been able to tolerate going down the detergent isle, with the odors, bleach, enzymes, etc. Now, I hold my breath, squent my eyes, and quickly aim and pick up a bottled detergent. I leave the area while the washer is working.

April 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm
(8) Hello says:

This has been a tough one to overcome! One thing I do is if I have hugged someone who has perfume on, I shower it off as soon as possible. I let close friends and family know so they won’t load up on perfume before seeing me. For cleaning, I use distilled white vinegar for everything. I read it kills something like 99.9% of germs when used full strength. On delicate surfaces, I cut the strength of it. I avoid cigarette smoke too.

April 2, 2010 at 5:39 pm
(9) Marilyn says:

OMGosh – patchouli oil is it number one – can smell it anywhere and if I come upon it I head the other way. Patchouli shuts down my throat so breathing is harder to take in. If hugged or near so that it gets one me, I can’t wait until I get home to shower. Second is mildew – I get the same reaction – and it’s instantaneous.

April 2, 2010 at 7:50 pm
(10) Diane says:

All petroleum based products immediatly make me sick. If I am driving and I get behind an asphalt or gasoline tank truck, I practically jam on the brakes to get away. I keep hand wipes in the car to wipe my hands after pumping my gasoline and the lingering smell is awful. Oil based paints, insecticides,car polishes and sprays, etc etc. Need I go on?

April 2, 2010 at 8:09 pm
(11) B says:

I’ve been sensitive to strong smells, good or bad, natural or chemical most of my life. When I was 8, I opened a can of coffee to make a pot for my grandma. She came looking for me 20 minutes later and I was passed out on the floor, overcome by the smell of MJB.

I lost a job due to a colleague who was best friends with our manager. The colleague insisted on dousing herself in Obsession and my reactions everytime I worked with her became more and more intense. It began with a headache…it felt like the smell was going straight up my nose and into my brain, causing migraine strength headaches. My reaction got more and more intense and I’d find myself incredibly stressed out and angry. I’d be hit with rages I could not control. It wasn’t after I was fired for speaking sharply to a customer that I learned that irritability and anger were common responses to stimuli by people with MCS.

I’ve had problems every place I work with perfumes, carpet glue, and a colleague who practiced aromatherapy at her desk. My nose tells me when someone is an alcoholic or an occasional drinker. I can smell marijuana at a hundred paces.

I can tell when food is ready to come out of the oven by their smells. I can tell who had garlic last night and who has eaten curry.

There are a handful of scented products I’ve intentionally desensitized myself to, mostly to counteract the smells of others. I wear a very light perfume and if I’m suddenly accosted by a “Calvin Klein”, I can sniff my own wrist until the person has moved away. While shopping I always have a headache which intensifies to a migraine while I pass Victoria’s Secret or a Body & Bath store. I cannot ride the escalators in most department stores because they always seem to put them in the middle of their perfume department.

When I heard Zicam was causing people to lose their sense of smell I was very tempted to try it. But there are still scents I love and it would kill me to hug my adult daughter and not be able to smell her own unique scent that she’s had since she was a baby, no matter what soap or shampoo she uses, I can still smell her essence…

April 2, 2010 at 8:10 pm
(12) helligull says:

I imagine different smells sometimes they are really horrible and then again they can be beautiful smells. The smell of my husband cooking his breakfast makes me retch, And some creams have the same sick making smell to a degree, even my hot water bottle anything. For a year I could’nt walk into the local petshop, my throat would just close up and I’d be fighting for breath, I plucked up to in the shop the other and I was fine!!!

April 2, 2010 at 11:32 pm
(13) susanja says:

Smells that give me migraines are jet fumes (eg, while waiting on a tarmac), cigarette smoke, barbecue smoke (esp the beginning starter fluid), nail polish & nail polish remover, campfires, household cleaners, burnt food (not toast). But I do enjoy many smells: mint, menthol, cinnamon, coffee, etc. I practice what I call “diversion therapy”. I keep a menthol inhaler near me, and whiff the menthol to distract me from the other smells. This helps unless I am pre-migraine, don’t grab the inhaler in time, or just getting over a migraine.

April 2, 2010 at 11:46 pm
(14) Melissa says:

While strong perfumes do trigger symptoms (headache, mostly) I absolutely cannot tolerate the smell of seafood, especially canned tuna. If someone opens a can of tuna in my kitchen, I have to go upstairs or leave the house until the smell dissipates, or risk throwing up. This reaction has gotten progressively worse. I also have problems with bad breath and body odor — it seems I can detect them much more keenly and from a greater distance away.

April 3, 2010 at 3:52 am
(15) Dorcas says:

I thought I was the only one with such a touchy smell. I can even smell sinus infection in my own nose — smells like a gym — dirty socks. My mother used oils for painting, and after she moved in with me and painted in the garage, I had to ask her to switch to acrylics since I could smell the oils in the house and it made me sick. She was elderly and sometimes had urine accidents, which I could smell — she said she wished I didn’t smell so much, but I was glad to be able to let her know so others wouldn’t get her smell. So, it can be a blessing as well as a curse to have such a strong reaction to strong smells. Recently someone put a ramen noodle package in our microwave and forgot to put water in before turning it on. The smell of burning plastic drove me crazy for a couple of days.

April 3, 2010 at 11:27 am
(16) Judy P says:

I first noticed my sensitivity to smell when my first college roommate used to drench herself in Charlie in the room. I asked her to put in on in the bathroom and shortly thereafer had a new roommate when she refused.

Just this year, I asked my principal and the district nurse to remind the staff at our blood-borne pathogens meeting that lots of people (including our students) have allergies to perfumes and other scents and to be considerate.

I feel happy that I can still use mildly scented soaps and shampoo, but need to think about what Wendy says above.

I find that I can usually ward off the headaches by using Flonase on a daily basis, but not the nausea. It’s a must for me in a profession where adolescents are in cologne training. Unfortunately, there are some scents for which that does not work -carpet deodorizers and air fresheners (which I can mostly avoid) and cheap floral perfume (which is hard to avoid). In those cases, I need to leave the store or area and wait till the pounding subsides before driving.

April 3, 2010 at 12:05 pm
(17) Laurie says:

Yes, I am very sensitive to all smells, flowers, perfumes, soaps and detergents with perfumes. I stay away from the candle isle and perfume counters. Thank goodness they don’t spray you when you walk by like they did years ago. Even clothes shopping can be a problem, because of the formaldehyde used in the finishing “starch.” My throat get raw and my eyes sting, especially when going down the cleansing product isle. I love dye and perfume free products. A skunks Ode De perfume makes me sick to my stomach. So did my moms pie crust when baking as a kid. I never told her because I always wanted to eat the pie.

April 3, 2010 at 4:49 pm
(18) Bruce Illig says:

MCS is not an “additional label” to make CFS patients “feel better” about themselves. It is the primary cause of CFS , autism, cancer, and many other disorders. It will never be properly researched or addressed, because it touches on industry’s “secret formula” protections, which allows industry to refuse to disclose any ingredients of their products that are not on the list of 200 “dangerous” chemicals which have been proven to kill humans instantly. Any of the 10′s of thousands of untested chemicals that have not been show to cause instant fatality, just long term disease and slow death, are fine, and secret. Good luck ever changing this in our two-corrupt-party system, now free to funnel unlimited corporate backing directly to candidates. If you want to stop choking on what has been “rammed down our throat” by government and industry, visit perfume poison.com and start complaining to FDA and CDC. CFS Society won’t do it, your doctors won’t, and neither will your elected representatives. Make some noise, and maybe your children, or grandchildren, won’t have to put up with this, if they can even manage to be born in this sea of chemical waste.

April 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm
(19) CHRIS D says:

when i was first diagnosed with asthma, i noticed right away i couldn’t tolerate many scents. i used to ride the bus to work and a woman sitting behind me reeked for perfume, i had to change seats. i wanted to tell her “you’re supposed to dab it on, not marinate in it.” elaine boozler had a bit in her comedy act telling men that “cologne was for after a shower, not in place of a shower.” (j/k)

April 6, 2010 at 11:36 am
(20) Lowry says:

Anyone with MCS should have their T-cell count checked and their helper-suppressor ratio. My MCS arose from continued exposure to diesel fumes. I overcame it, but it took 4 years to rebuild my T-cells. Be very aware that MCS is a sign of the same kind of damage to the immune system that occurs from HIV. It is a prime indicator of a malfunctioning T-cell system.

April 7, 2010 at 12:59 am
(21) Leonie (Australia) says:

I would have an instant headache if any strong chemical, carbon, cleaning, perfume product came near me…burning up my nasal passage and into sinus’ for a terrible headache. Irritants are bleach, perfume, petrol, newsprint, smoke,
I was ALLERGY TESTED (skin prick) and came up mould, dustmites, wheat and grass pollen…I am also gluten intolerant.
Being desensitized and avoiding the offending foods gave me an ability to start tolerating…tho not hanging around…these smells….UNTIL I had a serious flu which was followed by one virus after another. My system dropped again and I’m now using NASAL GEL made from Vit E, Olive oil and sesame oil every few hrs plus purified seawater spray when I get in contact with an irritant. I just had a lovely bush camp fresh air is healing but one member insisted on having a fire when it was still smokey…clean burn with a steady directioned breeze allowed me to sit close and not get too heady but once he kept it going in the damp morning it drove me crazy til I lost it and hubby got him to move it 100m down the lake.
For cleaning I use 6 drops of eucalyptus oil in a spray bottle or vinegar, hubby vacs and we steam mop and wet dust. Vacuum dust gets me too. Also ok with orange oil cleaners and use Earth friendly wash products.
Fess is company in Aust. that makes the nasal geL products.
I feel like a victim on a battlefield never knowing where the next odd angry shot is going to come from and hit me and end in a headache and another wasted day in bed.
The nasal gel is a bit of a defence but…

April 7, 2010 at 1:06 am
(22) Leonie (Australia) says:

BTW I grew up near Power Stations and Open cut coal mine and collapsed with CFS (after several episodes) in my mid 20′s in another town with similar pollution…coke works and industrial port to our south.

April 7, 2010 at 1:13 am
(23) Leonie (Australia) says:

KRYPTONITE is to Superman as Chemicals are to me….

Really mind numbing fatigue, aches, headache, nasal and sinus pain!

April 8, 2010 at 9:51 am
(24) Heather says:

I use a more neutral scent to put under my nose to help block out the smell of perfume. I have a little “stick” of cocoa butter moisturizing balm that I got from Sally’s Beauty supply that is easy to carry in my purse. Thankfully, some scents don’t bother me so I use those to “over-ride” the ones that do!

April 11, 2010 at 10:02 am
(25) Dana says:

I’m really struggling with scents. I never know when I’ll get a migraine from something someone is wearing. The new detergents and fabric softeners are some of the worst offenders. I read that the artificial scents the manufacturers use are based on petroleum. Maybe that’s why so many of us get sick from them. If only people knew. Dr. Oz had twice urged viewers to use unscented products. First he advised unscented soap and then recently unscented lotion. Thank you Dr. Oz. We need more advocates like him!

April 17, 2010 at 10:55 am
(26) Christina says:

I never realized I had a sensitivity to smells till recently. I just thought I couldnt stand the smell of certain things. I work in a Retail Store and if Ladies wearing a certain purfume (Patchoulli) came in I would get instantly ill, headache, nausea, plugged sinuses etc. I’d have to hide in my office until the smell dissapated.

I can wear Hawiian Ginger body spray and Exclamation cologne, thats it.

My sons are mechanics and the smell of them in grease or oil is getting harder to deal with. The smell of their snow stuff after snowmobiling is awful, they have to leave their things outside.

As time goes by I recognize more things I cant tolerate, I hope it doesnt get too much worse.

September 10, 2010 at 10:37 pm
(27) Deb says:

When powdered laundry detergents were more prevalent than liquid, I hated walking down that aisle. My sinuses would immediately swell up, and I felt awful.

September 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm
(28) Babsie says:

I just talked about this on the Patients Like Me Fibromyalgia site, any perfume on an airplane drives me nuts! All of my family are trained not to put it on in the house. I never dreamed it was a real conditon! Biz used to affect me when I was a grocery checker and I could tell it was in a cart even if my back was turned. The same with cilantro. I have to use non-perfumed everything.

October 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm
(29) Peter says:

Fabric softener – Plug in fragnancess. OMG my head explode, can’t breath.

October 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm
(30) Aymi says:

Household bleach and other strong cleaners make me feel all heady and sick, I feel a bit out of it and my CFS symptoms get worse. Right now I’ve got a strong bleach smell in my flat due to drains being cleaned so my fluey ache is back in my arms, shoulders, back and legs.

January 4, 2012 at 9:19 pm
(31) Ruth says:

Certain smells, including candles, plug-ins, perfumes, and lotions, give me headaches, sinus pain, and chest pain.

March 13, 2012 at 1:15 am
(32) B says:

I never had any problems with smell until my second csection. we live in a rambler so theres no where to get away from the smells.The entire time I was pregnant I had morning sickness all day and night. I thought it would go away after I gave birth. I have FM and 17 1/2 years of the horrible smells have not gone away. Mostly cooking smells, meat, I have had to move my bed into the livingroom and got a bed to prop be up because I have GERD as well, my family likes spicy food which I can no longer eat. The only thing I can do as the kitchen is next to the kitchen that we got an air cleaner( which has been the only thing that will drown out the basketball sounds of neighbor kids by the way) my husband doesn’t like to use the fan over the stove cause it is so loud, so I got a skylight that opens up by remote and it has been such a blessing, fresh air and natural light that I can read by.

March 13, 2012 at 1:31 am
(33) B says:

Yes the candle isle made me sick, I told my husband to take me home right now, I could tell it was going to give me a migraine. Whoever sold Febreeze must be a billionair as it is in practically everything, laundry products, air freshners, candles, in liguid softsoaps, and another one is aloe, its in everything also. I want to use purrell to wash my hands but then I can’t enjoy my hamburger cause all I smell is the aloe. I have tried to find any thing like purrell without aloe and there is no unscented ones.I forgot to mention that this marvelous skylight is remote controled and has a blind that goes up and down so the sun doesn’t wake u if u accidently left it up, it has really helped. It’s hard on a marriage when u can’t stand most smells that never bothered u before. And we lose power alot we r on PSE we had no power for 8 days 2 years ago. I kept the fireplace going since unfortunatly we have no more bedrooms, but if it gets too hot or smoky in here I just open the skylight window in the ceiling/Roof.

March 13, 2012 at 1:37 am
(34) b says:

I wish they would put the laundry soap at the end of the isle instead of the middle for people like us. I use clorox the blue bottle with green lid, it’s no perfume, no dyes. my one son is looking for his first job, but he says he walked in a new store that opened and couldn’t handle the smell. HE has trouble with the fertillizer isle.

March 13, 2012 at 2:10 am
(35) B says:

I have the alodynia too, but one that really bugs me on a daily basis is that sonic care toothbrush, by the time they all get teeth brushed with that
I have the buzzing sound still going on in my head on a loop like a bee.
I use a manual tooth brush, I don’t like the vibration in my mouth.some people have night gaurds to wash as well as reg. teeth so u can see why it is still there even after they have stopped.
does anyone have times when they can’t get a song out of their head for a long time? not just a day or two. I had christmas songs still going on a loop in my head for a month and a half. I don’t know how to make it stop when that happens cause I can’t turn it off, so I can’t sleep. I don’t listen to music after 6 p.m. just to be on the safe side, it has helped. one time they played ” More furniture for less commercial so often then that got stuck like a song.I wish they would retire or get another voice, maybe a girl or anyone but him. every week it’s another lame reason to have a sale….
smellsr especially bad when u r stuck in an elevator, r there any hairsprays without fragrance? My sons won’t be able to wear colonge as long as they live here, which with this economy could be forever. body odor is a problem, my husband will take 3 showers in the summer rather than use antipersperant. so, my children figure they don’t have to use it either, but he does smell, I have had a hard time getting a antipersperant and he has refused them all. I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but no one will keep him as a worker if he forgets to shower.

March 14, 2012 at 10:25 am
(36) lesley says:

Yes ‘B’, I can get driven nuts by a song or a phrase going round and round my head, stopping me dropping off to sleep, and if I do go to sleep, I wake up repeatedly all night and it’s still there bugging me!
Smells have been a big problem to me since my first pregnancy 21 years ago, many of which have already been mentioned here by other CFS sufferers. I’d like to add the smell of new shirts, particularly dark ones. I guess it’s cheap dye. The smell is still there after several washes and when I iron them, my sinuses, ear and head feel as if they are going to explode!!! It makes me feel off balance my throat gets sore and my tinnitus increases.
The smell of the grill pan and toasted sandwich maker heating up makes me feel nauseous and, on a bad day, even the smell of washing airing on the radiators or clean sheets on the bed can make me retch. The smell of my husband’s new lap top is particularly offensive – smells like factory suds – and hasn’t worn off through use.

March 16, 2012 at 12:47 am
(37) Chris says:

Any ammount of artificial scent instantly begins symptoms. Irritation of eyes. Throat gets raw. Feels like all the glands in my neck and head swell and get hard. This is painfull. Gradually gets harder to breathe untill I loose consciousness from apparent lack of oxygen. Impairs my ballance, judgement, strength, co-ordination and cognative function. Symptoms are always equivallent to the dose I recieve. I have almost died in my sleep on several occasions because my neighbours in a multi unit dwelling were using air freshener. Lanolin causes similar but I don’t think all the way to lethal symptoms.

March 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm
(38) Roberta says:

I have to add my experience which is similar to others. I’m 68 and have been diagnosed with fibro over 30 yrs, however, I think it plagued my unnamed for many more years. I recall as a teenager sudden headaches as I walked into the cosmetics dept of any stores, eucalyptus is an immediate trigger, my 3rd grade students whose parents used Surf detergent became a trigger, a particular perfumed hugger at church and on it goes. My husband doesn’t wear aftershave for my sake. Didn’t realize that this is a symptom of fibro.

March 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm
(39) Faye McSparren says:

I have had fibro for over 17 years. Several years ago I developed an itching when bathing in fragranced body wash, using anything on my skin that had fragrance. I would itch until I had snores. Got blisters on some places.

Have had to use all fragrance free products since and even sitting on a chair someone has sprayed with Febreze, causes problems. I have yet to find a shampoo/conditioner that is fragrance free, but Aveeno products have helped me a lot.

May 10, 2012 at 9:32 pm
(40) Teresa Cochrane says:

I am really worried and have been for ages… I have chronic fatigue and my muscles and joints hurt on a daily basis and find it hard….but lately i can tolerate NO smells at all….I cant even tolerate wiping my young sons bottom while helping him toilet train and im physically sick….never used to be. I get up every morning and just the smell of the laundry room or the bin when i open it and im physically sick and gagging…..its really making my life a misery….im 42 and it just gets worse

May 29, 2012 at 12:43 pm
(41) Jen says:

My young daughter put a hand sanitizer on from BBW last night and I have felt like I have a hangover ever since. I can’t escape the smell in my house and I have been doing laundry for hours trying to get rid of the smell. It feels terrible when your home is a toxic environment!
I have blurred vision, headache, dizziness, aches, and irritability. My cognitive functioning is SO bad today! I hope I am not having a flare-up of CFS and Fibro from it!!!

October 10, 2012 at 7:22 am
(42) Tim says:

I am 32 and suffering from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue since the start of my teens if not earlier.No one could understand my issues until I got my hands on the internet when I was 21. I found that many people have these kind of weird problems but the worst of all is I never found anyone who got over them. For 4 months now I am without a job and it feels like heaven. Not because I am a lazy person but because I don’t have to smell anyone’s perfume and because I do not have to put up with the ignorance of some people that do not want to understand or do not even try to understand. If I smell a perfume especially heavy men perfumes my body starts burning and this feeling stays up for days. After that my waist is something with no flexibility, I cannot even sit because my body is not flexible enough to allow me to do so. If I sit the pains are impossible to bear with. My legs, my waist…indescribable. It’s a nightmare and it feels like I am sitting and watching my life go by. The only person that understands me is my wife but I feel like she deserves better. I hope that no other person will go through what I am going through; physically and mentally.

October 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm
(43) Helen Boyle says:

So much of this strikes a chord with me. I have always had an extremely good sense of smell but at the moment I could really do without it! I seem to be very sensitive to a particular smell, that which you get when you open supermarket bread. Weird thing is, I keep smelling that smell all over the place. It was very strong outside Costa Coffee today & when I opened the cracker jar.

December 26, 2012 at 1:24 pm
(44) Kimberly says:

I didn’t put two and two together for a long time. I remember feeling like I was going to choke when I would bring my turtleneck down over my nose and mouth, and suffered from constant headaches as a child. I didn’t know it was the wood stove smoke. Years later- sinus infections have been a constant occurrence. My throat always raw and my nose always stuffy- I don’t get migraines from a smell- but the rawest sore throat ever, with tiny white blisters at the top, and deep pockets of inflamed redness at back of my mouth. Perfumes and most mand made smells, as well as natural smells like eucalyptus, flowering tomatoes, and many essential oils, also grease ( baking with butter that burns slightly, or bacon, or olive oil brought to a smoke point) Ugghhh. I have had a sore nose with a constant itch for 6 weeks this round- and so painful. It is like my actual cartilage is infected. All from smells. I often ask – “how is this possible” that a smell can reek havoc on me so thoroughly. I notice even lipstick smells and can only use a few kinds, same with shampoo. I try to go hypoallergenic as much as possible- funny thing is- I bought loads of hypoallergenic shampooo about a month ago. Just to come home and realize that “hypoallergenic” doesn’t mean with out scent. lol , and not so lol. Yah know? I can’t cover up a scent with another because it still makes me sick for weeks- the original offender. Why? Because my nasal passages swell up, block bacteria and I get sick. Every time I smell something that doesn’t agree with me or my constitution I pay the price. It is getting so that I am permanently sick with a sinus infection. and permanence in my sore throat condition- which is like having full time strep. Hard to cope with the world at this level.. Ughh. glad to know there are others like me.

December 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm
(45) Dawn says:

I’ve always been sensitive to certain smells… cigarette smoke, gasoline, diesel fumes especially. I remember riding the bus home from school and getting violent migraines and nausea from the odor, so much so that I couldn’t stand up straight and I’d have to drag myself to bed and lie down. I also never could tolerate certain perfumes/colognes, particularly the heavier oriental-type scents, same reaction.

Now that I’ve been diagnosed with fibromylagia, I notice my sensitivity to certain smells have dramatically increased, particularly those involving foods like cheese, cream and, lately, smoked meats. Especially ham. The smell literally makes me gag. And I used to love ham. Now I really can’t stand the smell of smoked meats, period.

January 3, 2013 at 11:29 pm
(46) lavonne says:

I recently realized that the smell of cinnamon at christmas in stores and resturaunts make me have migraines. The smell seems so strong and over welming. I have been in bed two days. My head feels like it is swollen, my neck and sinuses also. I cant stand loud noises and bright lights. How do you get checked for this? Im going crazy.

March 12, 2013 at 9:35 am
(47) Emily K says:

I work at a home store (it starts with a P) :) and everytime I work, I get a stabbing headache in between my eyes , lightheaded,dizzy, very nauseous to the point where it hurts to stand up. I do not have this problem when I go into Yankee Candle. The girls I work with do not understand how horrible I feel when I work.

April 4, 2013 at 11:01 am
(48) TC says:

I have a chronic pain syndrome with associated idiopathic seizures. Expose me to a heavy dose of Febreze or Paint Thinner and I’m sure to have a seizure…been proven to many times to ever want exposed again.

April 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm
(49) Deb says:

Wendy, I have found that using Zyrtec antihistimine significantly reduces symptoms to chemical allergens I am exposed to. Decreases the pain in fibro.

May 1, 2013 at 3:06 am
(50) Jennifer says:

Ive had issues with smells since I was a child which gave me debilitating headaches. I didnt know how to explain what was wrong or happening. Really didn’t until my 20s. I annoy those around me with my complaints of what is a horribly strong smell to me, and just everyday for them. Body odors hit me hard, bad breath, I can smell other people’s sinus infections or cavity/rotten teeth. The smell of Salvia turns my stomach instantly. I can easily smell women on their menstruation, this was difficult when in school. Burnt food kicks in an instant headache. The slight smell of molasses in raw form is an immediate migraine. But im fine with it once its cooked. Diesel fuel, gasoline, truck exhaust all kick in nausea and headaches. I leared what patchouli oil was the hard way from a funky co-worker. And tons of other smells bother me. But I also react severely if I have too much caffeine or sugar. As I get older just a little sugar as the last thing to hit my stomach at night means ill be sick when I wake up. ALL vitamins make me dizzy, nauseous and sick to my stomach. Birth control had the exact same reaction. I dont have any of the diagnosis other have mentioned, but similar serious sensitivities to odors and foods like the rest. Oh, and have had motion sicknesses and get sick if in the sun too long since I was tiny. Nice and at the same t I me sad to know I dont suffer this alone. Many days are absolutely miserable and spent in bed recovering, from dizziness, nausea and the inevitable migraine.

May 18, 2013 at 2:09 am
(51) craig long says:

My wife also suffers from the same triggers – anything scented, candles, perfume, air fresheners, etc. Nausea, depression, irritability, headaches etc. She also struggles with several spices such as cinnamon which has been mentioned in an earlier post. She also reacts bad to soy, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and many other foods. We are not sure if there is a connection or not between the foods and smells. The allergist says she is not allergic just sensitive. I found an article ( and didn’t bookmark it :-( ) that talks about the artificial genetic modifications in so many foods – especially soy, and it’s detrimental effects on people. While it is true that genetic modification has been happening for centuries, the current and recent methods have combined different species of plants and animals in laboratory settings to produce a “better” product. About the only thing we have found that helps is plenty of rest and Benadryl and Zyrtec. If anyone has any other suggestions it would be greatly appreciated.

August 6, 2013 at 7:59 pm
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August 8, 2013 at 12:52 am
(53) Punkin says:

Your article doesn’t address the connection between smell sensitivity and “fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome”. I don’t understand why “fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome” is part of the subject line. Anything proven data to show? Your article did mention that people who are sensitive to certain types of smell are healthy. If you are addressing “fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome”, should you make your effort to discuss it by presenting your researdh data and the clinical data to prove your argument. Your subject line implies that “fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome” is one of the primary causes to smell senitivity – to me, it is somehow misleading without proven data.

August 20, 2013 at 11:37 am
(54) Bob says:

UGH…I want to smack people that wear patchouli oil. I can smell it 100 feet away and then it just lingers with me. That and baby powder deodorant. There’s one “guy” at work that wears something I’m so senstive to that I can smell him 5 minutes after he’s parked in the open air garage and walked down the stairwell….

I had to get rid of my daughter’s Cabbage Patch Kid because it had “real baby scent” to it (aka baby powder). It was in the playroom and the smell was killing me…then I figured out what it was.

Old women who bath in their perfume is second worst. They’re used to the smell so they don’t realize they’re overpowering to everyone else around.

August 20, 2013 at 12:59 pm
(55) Lucy0164 says:

is it weird that I have been experiencing the smell sensitivities, particulary to certain perfumes/colognes, but I’m a smoker? I keep thinking that, having been smoker for long time, I shouldn’t even be able to smell these things, but some colognes/perfumes in the office (and getting worse lately) can be particularly overwhelming for me…I get all the symptoms described….eyes, nose, throat burning & itching; headache; nausea (sometimes to the point of vomiting)…how is this possible?? I am going for annual checkup tomorrow, and decided to look up information about possible physical ailments that might cause sensitivity, and lo & behold…here you all are!!! and with something I have long wondered if I should look into more….I certainly should…smells aren’t the only symptom for me, unfortunately :-( Thanks for all the good posts…they have helped me a lot…I just cannot figure out how, being a smoker, I can even smell these things at all ???? (I have started noticing recently, though, that the smell of the ashtray outside really bothers me if not cleaned regulary….never put these things all together….wow!) Thanks again….

August 26, 2013 at 7:34 am
(56) Lakisha says:

I believe i have mcs & Ibasically diagnoised myself.Did alot of searching the web & comparing symptoms I had when I came into direct contact with certain chemicals/irritants.I started out having reactions to dishwashing detergent.Anything the dishwashers ran the symptoms would start as a teen at 18.After that I started noticing the perfumes i wore bothered me,laundry detergent wash next,facial products,windex,bleach,lotions,pesticides,electric heaters were even bothersome.My symptoms:headache,facial pain,teeth pain,dizziness,fatigue,heart palpetation,light headed,weak,burning sensation & over heated,alot of joint pain & aching bones,lower back pain,bleeding during my pregnancy when i was 35 whenever I came in contact with detergents,vomitting.I went from think I had contact dermititis, fibroded problem,are some type of chemical inbalance.I have had test done(mri),seen different doctors whom never seem to have heard of mcs nor how to treat or diagnosis it.Most of my symptoms startup in my home.Household cleaning products,fumes from paint and carpet trigger reactions and wood dust as well cause me to feel as if my insides are being riped apart.Fresh seems to help or well vinilated places.Ive taken medication recommend/perscribed by doctors who have believed I had a chemical inbalance but they didnt help at all.It would be nice to come across a physician who gets it(mcs) dealing with a condition like this can literally drive a person up the walk especially when you doctors or clueless just as much as you and you can find any relief or excspe.

September 9, 2013 at 9:49 am
(57) Nathalie says:

I feel bad for people that are allergic to fragrances. It’s such a treat for a lady to have. (yes for gentlemen also)

We are manufacturer of fragrances (sorry wholesale only) and we are aware of this problem. It is caused by the fact that there ARE chemicals in many (95%) perfumes sold in the US. Because the perfume industry is NOT regulated in the US. For that reason a lot of manufacturer replace the expensive component of a fragrance; the fragrance oils, for chemicals which are less expensive. So you might be allergic to those chemicals, not the fragrance itself.

Fragrances ARE regulated in many other countries therefore designers have different recipes for their perfumes depending on the country there are sold and distributed. They achieve the same scent with different ingredients…yes. :(

As an ethical company we do NOT use ANY chemicals in our fragrances… none. We only have 3 ingredients: alcohol, fragrance oils, and natural vegetal glycerin.

Now of course some people are still allergic just as there are many people allergic to nuts, gluten etc but using a natural fragrance you eliminate most risks.

September 23, 2013 at 11:08 am
(58) loretta says:

i clean with vinegar how come it make me dizzy

October 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm
(59) Kristen says:

Nathalie, you are correct that it is the chemicals people with MCS react to in perfumes and scented products, however, many people, including myself, are sensitive to natural fragrances, too. For me, natural fragrances make me slightly uncomfortable. Chemicals such as benzene and other VOCs induce respiratory failure. My lungs tighten and my throat closes. Have had several close calls. Benedryl and Orapred have saved my life more than once. What shocks me isn’t the wealthy companies selling the toxic detergents and personal products (they’ll market and sell anything for financial gain), it’s the consumers risking their health and that of others. Axe body spray is the perfect example. It started fires in locker rooms, sent kids to the E.R. for asthma and yet it’s still very popular. In the 1970′s the government stopped requiring manufacturers to list the ingredients–it’s time they not only reversed this decision, but started banning dangerous and toxic chemicals. I, for one, would like to start a class-action suit against Macy’s Department Stores for including perfumed flyers in the newspapers. I had to cancel my subscription after one really bad attack!

October 19, 2013 at 12:17 am
(60) Mary says:

Loretta, you could be allergic to the vinegar. Try using hydrogen peroxide.
Now otherwise, people, you need to get away from detergents made from petroleum products (most are)!!! And you can get products from “natural” stores like Sprouts and even Whole Foods will have unscented products.
Dr. Bronner’s products come in scent free versions.
I have found non-chlorine bleach works OK for me.
If you tolerate coffee, a jar of coffee beans helps clean the scent of perfumes from your nose (close the jar when you aren’t using it and it will last a long time).
Also be careful of the ingredients in your hand soap. I have found a dish soap that we use for handwashing. It is safe, gentle and also cheaper than any hand soap I found. Hope this helps some!

November 8, 2013 at 11:55 pm
(61) Gail says:

In the 2 months before I even knew what CFS/ME was, my sense of smell went through the roof! This was when I was still up and about and camping for the summer holidays at a windy beach location. I distinctly remember a woman who stopped by my tent to chat and I had to walk away, so intense was my aversion to the perfume she was wearing. And that was just the beginning. Suddenly I could smell everything manmade, and wasn’t too shabby with organic smells either. Two months later I was bedridden). Even now 12 years later I can smell any chemical smell from so far away I am famous within the family. Even on an open ocean beach I can tell if anyone is smoking hundreds of metres away. Cigarettes and products like turps, meths, warm plastics and vehicle fumes are the worst.. So glad to hear I am not alone in this. (And don’t get me started on overheating)!

November 19, 2013 at 2:29 pm
(62) Diana says:

I seem to have Fibromyalgia and may have CFS though I’ve not been diagnosed with it. (I’m tried all the time). The reason I found myself on this site is that I have a LOT of problems with getting sick when I clean and sweep and also with perfumes and candles and well just a lot of things. Trouble is I also have Anosmia (which means I have NO sense of smell) so I can’t avoid everything because I have no idea when I’m getting close to something if I can actually see it. I try to clean with different products that say they are natural or don’t have a strong smell but I still get sick. And as one poster said above, people use/put on a lot of things that smell and then all those chemicals stay with them. I personally buy things labeled unsented (but I really have no idea if they really don’t have a scent or not). My question is what am I to do when I can’t even smell the things I’m trying to avoid so that I can avoid them. I live alone and though my cat is there she’s not talking. LOL. If you have any suggestions please email me. badbadkittywv@yahoo.com

January 24, 2014 at 12:53 pm
(63) Kathy says:

I am so glad to have found this message board. I have suffered as many on here have with scents for my entire life. The effects have intensified as I have gotten older. I can detect smells that no one in my household can smell. I’m not sure why I have such a sensitive nose. I am easily irritated by airborne particulates, especially those associated with wood smoke. Even when the smoke is not detectabley by me, I am still irritated by it. I’m glad that I don’t have asthma, but I do come close to wheezing. My throat tightens, my ears itch, I have constant post-nasal drip. I have to take allergy medicine just to sleep during the cold winter months. I thought at first that the dry indoor air was causing my problems, but now I know that it’s the wood smoke from my neighbor’s chimneys. How I wish that I could be hermetically sealed in my house.

April 15, 2014 at 4:53 am
(64) Tsholo says:

I also have a problem with certain smells,my problem is that they affect my voice,smell of a cigaret makes me loose my voice,petrol,parrafin,paint my voice goes completely,bad smell of food makes me vomit n loose my voice.i really dont knw whats wrong with me

April 15, 2014 at 11:35 am
(65) cari says:

I do not have fibromyalgia and I think that is a lame thing to blame on normal reactions to toxic chemicals that many perfumes contain. There are no regulations on what can go into perfumes and there needs to be. In this last year many perfume companies have added a very toxic chemical that makes the sent of the perfume stay in the air. This chemical is a huge health hazard and has been making a lot of people sick including myself. This is unacceptable. The FDA needs to mandate that perfume companies disclose all chemicals they put in their perfume. I don’t care about their stupid ” trade secrets”. Not when its impacting my health and well being to this extreme!

April 15, 2014 at 12:36 pm
(66) Gail says:

I have had problems with fragrances since I was in my early 20′s. When the artificial fragrances came into being I noticed my eyes burning, burning of my sinuses and throat. About three years ago I went to Church and everyone there wore a different fragrance. I had to leave, because of the burning of my eyes, ears, nose, and throat. I was sick for about three days, but the one thing I remembered was that when I awakened the next day I had no sense of smell or taste. To this day I have no sense of taste or smell, but when someone comes into the room with any kind of fragrance I still have the burning sensation.

April 16, 2014 at 11:36 pm
(67) Elizabeth says:

I, like many of you, also suffer from chemical intolerance. I can usually deal with it by avoidance, but recently even that isn’t working. I live in an apartment and my neighbor moved out. My landlord cleaned the apartment next to mine with very toxic chemicals that are now leaking into my apartment. It’s a nightmare, as there is no where else I can go to stay that is scent free. I have already moved once out of my parents home which used to be a scent-free haven for me until they replaced their kitchen flooring. I had a terrible reaction and have not been able to step foot in there house for almost two years. It is absolutely terrible. I started a new job and the ladies’ laundry detergent is making my face go numb which then typically leads to migraine. I have tried every doctor under the sun. I just tried a doctor who is more homeopathic and he thinks he can help me. I am 39 and can’t imagine living my life like this the rest of my days. I am hoping he can help me, but this condition is very isolating and depressing. Not to mention how dismissive doctors are about it. Just know if you have this that traditional Western medicine may not have the answers. You might want to seek out homeopathic or holistic doctors who have dealt with this before. I don’t have money but I’m putting his bills on my credit card at this point because I want to live a happy, fulfilling life.

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