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Perfume allergy

The expression perfume allergy covers such a wide range of problems, we should first try to divide them into categories, as there are some quite distinct areas of difficulties.

The three main areas are contact with the substances themselves, irritations, for want of a better expression, caused by scents in the air, and allergic reactions, again to airborne perfumes.



Contact with irritants or allergens is where wearing perfume or using perfumed toiletries or cosmetics causes skin irritation, rashes, itching, or more severe allergic reactions such as breaking out of the skin and excema symptoms.

As these problems are usually caused by toiletries we have applied to our skin ourselves, they are usually the most straightforward to treat. We can stop using the perfume which is causing the problem, change to unperfumed soap, shampoos, household cleaning materials, etc.

It becomes more difficult when there are severe reactions to contact with irritants over which we have no control, such as hotel sheets and towels, shaking hands with people, driving a car with perfume on the steering wheel, etc.

The second category is where people have short term reactions to usually severe degrees of airborne perfume exposure, such as when someone has just overdone the perfume spray before going out, walking through a department store where they like to spray perfume around, etc. As the reactions are not usually severe, trying to avoid these situations is often quite effective.

The most serious category, and the one which is often virtually impossible to deal with effectively is where someone has an acute sensitivity to airborne perfume particles in the normal everyday situations we all find ourselves in.

The symptoms are often very severe, ranging from tightness of the chest, dizziness, sore throat, chest, coughing, vomiting, even passing out.

Perfumes seem to be everywhere these days, not always where we expect to find them. They are in toiletries, of course, soaps, deodorants and antiperspirants, washing up liquid, household cleaners, washing powders and liquids, fabric conditioners, chemical sprays and air fresheners, the list seems endless.

People are the biggest problem, of course, more and more perfumes and perfumed products are being used, so it becomes more and more difficult to avoid exposure.