Air Freshener, Mine Enemy

tbt0926I’m feeling the need to confess. Maybe I shouldn’t, just in case business owners mentioned (however subtly) in this short story actually read this blog.

Nah, it’s not likely. I’ll go ahead anyway.

Ahem. Confession. In two parts. Here we go:

1. I HATE AIR FRESHENER.
2. I HIDE/CLOSE/OBSCURE/MODIFY AIR FRESHENER DISPENSERS IN PUBLIC PLACES.

Now, I understand a little bit about what it’s like to own your own business. I understand that you want to create a warm, friendly, yummy-smelling environment. That Smell o’ Bathroom will not enhance coffee or drink sales. Therefore I will not toss your air freshener into the garbage, nor will I try to flush it down the toilet (I’d surely get caught that way). But if you have one of those stand-up freshener dispensers that allows you to adjust how much smell is coming out, I will shut it so it’s closed (or nearly closed, only a tiny crack of air letting out faux, plasticky “raspberry” to seep out). And if you have those Glade plug-ins with an on/off switch, I might switch it off. Just for a bit.

I’m at one of my favorite coffee shops as we speak. Today when we came in, one of the owners was mopping the floor—it looked clean & shiny. Unfortunately, the cleanser was very strong-smelling—it shot up my nose and pierced into my headachey brain (yup, migraine today—but it’s very overcast, and I kind of expected this—so no tears). A little later I was in the bathroom—before I even opened the door I smelled the air freshener; it already had affected my head, which was pounding due to my having stood up too fast and having smelled that horrible smell.

Okay, so confession’s over. Conscience is clear.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (58)
  • Brenda B
    5 years ago

    I know the feeling. Smells get to me also. It makes even worse and I just can’t deal with it. I remember one time when I was having a real bad migraine and I had to go to the ER cuz I just couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I swear they must of just cleaned the area where U check in cuz wow it was strong! Than I went back to get checked in and the nurse was washing her hands with germx and she asked me to step up on the scale. I told her I couldn’t cuz she was washing her hands right there and the smell was to strong for me. I asked for an emesis bag and she said “U get up here now or otherwise U must leave!” I was shocked, but good ole me, I was in so much pain that I went up there. But the funny thing is, well sorta funny. I got up on the scale and a few seconds later, I ended up puking and I didn’t mean to but I puked on her. So you can see how bad I hate my migraines.

  • Paula Diaz
    7 years ago

    I relate to this also – airfreshners, mothballs, deoderants sprays, flysprays 🙁

  • Helen Williams Lopez
    7 years ago

    Sometimes people overuse air fresheners and candles to hide the cigarette smell – the smell of cigarettes or any type of tobacco also gives me migraines! Covering the smell up with “good ” odors is a double whammy for my migraines!

  • Helen Williams Lopez
    7 years ago

    Stong odors and sometimes, not so strong odors can trigger my migraines. Perfumes, air fresheners, cleaners, anything that is used to “make it smell better”. People tend to think you are a whiner and/or hypochondriac if you mention the negative effects smells have on you.

  • Karen Mullins
    7 years ago

    MEE TOOOOO!

  • Deborah Rubin
    7 years ago

    I get a migrane every time I smell Glade Plug-Ins. Not so much with other things but that type gives me an immediate migraine. So does perfume and cologne. I have to avoid situations where I’m exposed to certain smells. I’m happy to know I’m not the only one….

  • Dominique Forti
    7 years ago

    Oh dear friend, that and strong perfume, if only! behind MR or Mrs perfume in the plane, train… the air freshener in the cabs! Nobody understand, when I say I really have to change sit, can’t take it, I’m going to puke.

  • Barbara Collins
    7 years ago

    I hate to offend people but at my office some people do oils and fresheners and you can’t get away from it. More than one day I’ve gone home with a migraine. What gets me most are those cinnamon brooms in the decorator stores! OMG!

  • Lisa Jurcich Kovach
    7 years ago

    Euculiptus is my worst enemy! And I avoid the pufume and colone areas like the plague! All my friends used to wonder why. I’d explain, I’m sorry but it gives me an instant migraine. You go, I’ll wait here. Any strong scent does that to me. Loud voices, and pollen during sping always give me horrid migraines, and some people just don’t get it. Understanding is the key people. <3~

  • Courtney Thomas
    7 years ago

    I am allergic to chocolate (tragic I know) over the 6 years of years since we found this out, even smelling it has started to become a trigger. It is the hardest thing to get some people to understand not to stand near me and eat it, breathe on me, bake it around me – I can not eat it, touch it or smell it without having a migraine so bad that even my meds will not touch it. air fresheners, perfume, mens aftershave has to be the worst for me, the smell of rubber, fuel, paint and some foods are all bad triggers for me. So I feel your pain – and I totally understand turning down the air fresheners.

  • Courtney Thomas
    7 years ago

    Thomas Miller Its a strange allergy I know, but I don’t really miss it that much. I can still have white chocolate. And white coco and peanut butter is YUMMY! But the Higher the coco count the worse off I am – 6 M&M’s and I was almost hospitalized for my migraine cause it was so bad. Nothing would touch it and I was very very ill. Smells are a big trigger for me, I just filled up my truck this morning and the gas smell made the rest of my drive to work very painful.

  • Thomas Miller
    7 years ago

    That is a strange reaction to chocolate , I have seen different types of alergic reactions but not that one ! I feel for ya girl , I pray that this allergic reaction settles down for you ! God bless~ thomas

  • Karen J Fisher
    7 years ago

    I know what you mean the smell of most air fresheners, certain perfumes, most candles, most household cleaners, gasoline, Diesel fuel sends me into immediate Migraine mode, with my face going numb and my head pounding along with a general unsteadiness. I worked in a lab that used a lot of Lysol (in the women’s bathroom)… a lot! When I complained my fellow employees seemed to get a kick out of spraying extra! Some people just do not get and do not care. I was ill a lot with my migraines while I worked there – 8+ years… ugh. It was awful… Thanks for you article. kjf

  • Suzanne Johnson
    7 years ago

    Smells can lead me to an instant migraine. I’ve moved, tossed & unplugged in public places. I ask family members to unplug & hid them before I arrive for a visit. The people with migraines accomdate me, all others ignore my request and make snarky remarks. If they’re wondering why I never visit, this is it. The snarkys are the same peoplee who also ignore my request in the gift area as well. They continue to give me gifts of perfume, candles, scented lotion & body wash. There are certain stores I can not go into and many I have run out of. My sence of smell is higher than most which makes having a sensitivity to smells as a migraine trigger a big pain in the rump!

  • Michelle Stenner
    7 years ago

    fluorescent lights are still the worst though!

  • Michelle Stenner
    7 years ago

    Smells get me too, especially strong womens perfumes. Horrible!

  • Tiffanie Fields Stambaugh
    7 years ago

    No one understands this! That something everyone else thinks smells fantastic can send me spiraling into the migraine pit! It has taken 3 years to convince the my office that the air freshener they use in the ladies room makes me ill. It is mounted to the wall and I have knocked it off and thrown it away pretty much weekly until they got the message.

  • Lola Aileen Vanslette
    7 years ago

    You aren’t the only one! I would even go so far as to say, any smell…especially perfume… will aggravate even the mildest migraine. Besides bright lights and loud sounds, I’d say this is the TOP irritant for me.

  • Carlene Jackson
    7 years ago

    I totally agree with you, I don’t even get to go into a bunch of stores I would dearly love to shop in due to the fragrances. I cant stand candles, and as Melissa said stay away from me mall kiosk owners or workers with hand creams or whatever has a smell. ugh! My step daughter is slowly learning that she has a choice, either find a cologne or freeze your tail off in a vehicle with me, because I will open a window and let the smell escape No matter how hot or cold, between the migraines and asthma that is what is going to happen. My kids learned better along time ago.

  • Angela Mills Edge
    7 years ago

    Can I get an AMEN?

  • Courtney Thomas
    7 years ago

    AMEN!!!!!

  • Tiffanie Fields Stambaugh
    7 years ago

    AMEN!!!!!!

  • LRaye Picard Squiemphen
    7 years ago

    and then there are the cheap pefumes, and the pour it on like water… those triggger me as well…

  • LRaye Picard Squiemphen
    7 years ago

    sometimes you get by a person that just like spills the bottle on themselves.

  • Ray N Cookie Picard
    7 years ago

    That’s why I stick to body sprays that are light perfume usually triggers my migranes

  • Stacy Phillips
    7 years ago

    same here! My mother in law gave my teen daughter some beautiful smelling perfume spray, it smells lovely, but it kills my head.

  • Del Cameron
    7 years ago

    I’ve been in an e-mail argument with the director of a local community center. He thinks the air freshener being used in his restrooms and changing rooms is harmless. But on that particular day, Nov. 27 it about knocked me over. Gave me an immediate headache, and other symptoms. Felt sick for days. From a little research I find out what really nasty chemicals go into these fragrance products. Adverse reaction or not, they can’t be any good for anybody’s health.

  • Becky Davenport
    7 years ago

    omg. the car air fresheners seem to be the strongest and most toxic to me and I have nearly thrown them out the window. usually make the owner stow it away. can relatd to the cleaning chemicals….pine sol will make me sick/dizzy/headache within ten minutes or less. Its a harsh world out there. I like good smelling things like the rest of us…but it can overwhelm easily. oh..and the dryer sheets…ack. I can’t even be close to people who use them.

  • Yolanda Hunter Young
    7 years ago

    The office I work in has many of those strong plug ins and they give me a headache every time I walk in. I hate them too.

  • Lindsay Kaye
    7 years ago

    oh I am so glad I am not alone here. I do that too! they give me an instant migraine.

  • Sarah Scott Blankenship
    7 years ago

    My boss put up 4…mind you, 4…febreze plug in things in our office. These were all in one 18 by 20 room. That’s a lot of febreze! I took all but one down and hid them in the bathroom. I sent her an email explaining if she wanted me at work and functional every day, we couldn’t have that much air freshener in one room. It was freezing cold, so we couldn’t open the door, so of course by the time I went home I had a horrible migraine. I think they’re getting tired of me “adapting” my office to prevent migraines–I put up a lamp instead of the horrible buzzy florescents, bought a new chair because the one they bought made me sit slumped over, took down the air fresheners, and whatever else pops up. However, if they want me to work (and they do, I think) then they’ll have to tolerate it.

  • Tiffanie Fields Stambaugh
    7 years ago

    I worked at an elementary school and had to check computers in classrooms. There was always a different plug in air freshener in every room. By the time I went in to 3 or 4 I would already be sick.

  • Becky Davenport
    7 years ago

    i have accommodations on the books at my workplace so i dont lose my job and can keep things at a nearly tolerable condition. Too bad if they are “tired” of it….amazing how some who complain don’t usually have headaches or ailments of any kind? I dont wish evil on anyone, but it sure tempts me!

  • Becky Scott
    7 years ago

    I can totally relate. Any strong smell makes me sick when I have a migraine. Air fresheners, perfumes and colognes, candles, etc., all of it can wreak havoc with my head.

  • Roxanne Hartis Embler
    7 years ago

    They do the same to me! Awful! Wonder Why?

  • Pat Johnson
    7 years ago

    So true, even when my daughter would do her laundry she used so much bleach I started telling her she had to make an appointment to use bleach so I could leave the house.

  • Shannon Bush
    7 years ago

    I do the same thing! I blow out candles at other peoples’ homes, businesses, etc. My friends have to spray perfume/colognes outside of my house or not at all if they are going to ride in a vehicle with me. SMELLS set my migraines off in a flash (yes to the posters below, even deodorants do it, isn’t that crazy?), good smells, set me off. And don’t get me started on cleaning products, etc. I think they were created to kill the environment and people!

  • Melissa Hastings
    7 years ago

    Jim Reginelli seriously…I wanna just yell at them if you smell that bad that you have to cover your stink with something else than I suggest that you just take a freaking shower!! LoL

  • Jim Reginelli
    7 years ago

    im so allergic to womens cologne and such i hate being around women who bath in it

  • Melissa Hastings
    7 years ago

    I totally relate. air fresheners, candles, body sprays, perfumes/colognes…ALL set me off and I have to and do avoid them all. I have no issue telling off the harpies in the mall that want to spray you with the scent of the week. I’ve even cursed out a few from the kiosks in the mall that wanted to put some aromatherapy crap on my shoulders. I said I have allergies and suffer from Migraines I don’t give a flying f*ck if it cures cancer get that sh*t the f*ck away from me or I will punch you in the face.
    I’m not really sure why, but they called mall security on me…

  • Melissa Hastings
    7 years ago

    I am so sorry. I had a pharmacist deny me a prescription when i offered to pay full price because my insurance needed my Dr to send a letter saying it was necessary to use it over another medication before they would cover it…aka step therapy program BS. usually took about a week to clear up and I was in mid migraine at the counter. I went out to my car, called my sister who is a pharmacist who told me to calm down and go home and relax, which just pissed me off even more, I hung up on her, went back in the pharmacy spoke to the clerk instead of the pharmacist and said look i can’t see straight what is the fucking problem. i am offering to pay you full fucking price for this medication right now until this is straightened out with my insurance, why are you not giving me my medication? she says that shouldn’t be a problem who told you you couldn’t pay full price and be reimbursed the difference later? when I told her it was the pharmacist, she scowled at him and called the manager. 3 minutes later I left the store, meds in hand.

  • Laura Bagley Asher
    7 years ago

    I went off on a cashier at a big warehouse store that told me to “smile”. Mind you I had on sunglasses, I was totally pale, and I shake. I had a friend driving me that day because I knew I would trigger, the cashier believed me after my friend verified what I was saying.

  • Andrea Thomas Krohn
    7 years ago

    I so agree! Some days I can’t even stand the smell of my own deodorant. I wear a mild baby powder scent that I have worn since my very first bar of deodorant. It’s the only one I can tolerate. Some days, even it is too much. I think most migraineurs would be ok with you closing the air fresheners.

  • Dominique Forti
    7 years ago

    Same here, I use bicabonate. It works miracle and doesn’t smell a thing

  • Christina Bosman Fulton
    7 years ago

    I know! My husband recently bought Arm & Hammer Unscented for himself and I swear he now smells like Lemon Pledge! I use the Dove unscented and that doesn’t seem to bother me.

  • Lola Aileen Vanslette
    7 years ago

    Yeah, baby powder smell is one that will really set me off. That is why I use a natural and unscented antiperspirant. What really gets me is that whenever I have a birthday or special occasion, someone will inevitably send me perfume. Why??

  • Lindsay Kaye
    7 years ago

    i have problems with deodorant too. i switched to a crystal, its a stone that you wet and apply. all natural and completely scent free. 🙂

  • Candie King Wallace
    7 years ago

    I totally feel you! What I hate is family members that invite you over but then light tons of smelly candles, knowing they will just make my head burst! Hmmmm maybe that’s a sign!

  • Bre Miller
    7 years ago

    Lol I do the same thing! Air fresheners are a bad trigger!

  • Jane
    8 years ago

    This made me laugh since I have done the same thing. The bathroom in the building where I work had one of those awful smelling automatic spritzing things attached to the wall. Every chance I got I would jump and hit the little switch on the side to turn it off. I was always afraid someone would open the door and catch me jumping. I am not sure who kept turning it back on but eventually they repainted the bathroom and the took it off the wall and never put it back 🙂

  • Teri-Robert
    8 years ago

    Migrastick concerns me because, as far as I’ve been able to tell, it’s undiluted essential oils. Very few essential oils should be applied to the skin without being diluted. Peppermint is definitely one that should be put in a carrier oil before being put on the skin, and it should not be used by pregnant women or very young children.

    That said, I often use the method of smelling something else to avoid odor triggered Migraines. I make my own roll-on Migraine relief and some “smelling salts” with essential oils that work really well for this.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    8 years ago

    Teri, I’d never read about not putting essential oils on your skin until I saw your comment and then looked it up. Good point! Maybe I will just use Migrastick (if I order it again) as something to sniff. Or to roll on my shirt cuffs or something. It does feel SO GOOD on my temples, though, but surely not worth the health risk! My yoga teacher always tells me to put peppermint oil drops into a teaspoon of sesame oil & rub it on my joints–I hadn’t realized the main reason for the sesame oil was to dilute the peppermint.

  • jdinrochester
    8 years ago

    I found it at a local Vitamin Shoppe, and also saw it on ebay. It never worked to ease a migraine. I tried rubbing it on my temples and it ended up in my eyes ;p. Not so good!! Glad I could suggest a different use for it for you.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    I have never heard of Migrastick! I’m a vet’s assistant from way back. We always used Vick’s under the nose for the really icky stuff. Sometimes I can use it even now and it makes me feel better, but other times, if I’m too far into an attack, well I’m just sunk. It never occurred to me to use it when I smell someone’s awful perfume. Hmmmmm….

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    8 years ago

    jdinrochester, I am so happy you mentioned Migrastick! I picked that up a couple years ago at a health food store and found that it made me feel so much better–I used the thing up within a few months, though, and never got a new one.

    I hadn’t thought of using it as a way to ward off competing smells–great idea.

    Ellen & Lin, I’m glad I made you laugh. It’s strangely comforting to know that there are others out there whose noses are as sensitive! Too bad it’s nearly impossible to explain that to those who aren’t bothered by strong smells.

  • jdinrochester
    8 years ago

    hi new hear thanks to seeing your tweets which i don’t do on a regular basis but I’m trying to take hold of my healthcare once again after nearly drugging myself to death last week. anyhow, this is so familiar and glad to see that you’ve found a trigger…..I’m chronic migraneur for 15 years now…of course didn’t start that way….
    I have a great remedy for SMELLS!!!! I CARRY A MIGRASTIK IN MY PURSE WITH ME EVER SINCE MY DR. MENTIONED IT TO ME A FEW YEARS BACK. Capped that for a reason. It costs about $6 USD
    and I’ve bought 2 of them in about 5 years time. It smells like peppermint/wintergreen oil. It comes as an inch long rollerball like container and if I’m around a nasty smelling person or get a whiff early enough of a candle/gladelike thing/perfume, I rub a line on the back of my hand and smell it getting very close with my nose. I don’t rollerball it under my nose, cuz it usually then ends up in my mouth and it tastes yukky. Hth’s someone.
    I worked in a college and it helped a girl who came from a cadaver class 😉

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    8 years ago

    You made me laugh 🙂 I remember going into the bathroom at work and standing on the toilet to stretch to the sprayer to try to shut it off. Never could reach it, lol. I got good at holding my breath tho 🙂

  • Lin
    8 years ago

    Thanks for the chuckle!! Hope you are feeling better!

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