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An automatic fragrance spray, or THE MIGRAINE MACHINE

I’m at a friend’s house, hanging out with her pups while she’s out for the evening.  I ADORE my friend and am thrilled that she is back in town after a few years gone—already it’d be great for her to be in town, but she’s across the street from Jim and me. It’s pretty rad, let me tell you.

What I’m not thrilled about is this sneaky little thing that just happened. If she knew that I was reacting so badly to something in her house, she’d feel awful.

My plan was to come over here around 8:00 pm, let the dogs out for a potty break, and then come back inside to do some writing for a bit.  Jim’s having band practice at our house, so I thought it’d be nice to hang out with the dogs while getting some work done.

I sat down on the couch, and the larger dog cuddled up on the adjoining seat.  The tiny dog is quite cat-like and jumped on my lap, not seeming to be able to get close enough. I felt so cozy and great.


What was that? I wondered.  A strange little noise by the window.  The dogs didn’t seem spooked, so I ignored it.

I went to turn down the radio a little and caught a whiff of an unfamiliar perfumeshe got a new candle, I thought.  I’ll steer clear of this part of the room. I considered sniffing around to figure out where the smell was coming from so I could isolate it and put it outside, but I noticed it was in a certain part of the room, and I didn’t want to aggravate my head by sniffing it out too aggressively. I figured I’d just stay far away from it.


There went that noise again. What in the world?  I looked around the window and wall where I heard the noise.  Maybe there was an animal in the garage or something.  Hmm.

Oh man.  That smell was really starting to smell strong.  I thought it might be time to head back home and try to work despite the rock band practice in my house.  Loud music can be a trigger sometimes, but Jim has noise-reducing headphones I can use, and noise SURE as heck beats perfume as far as migraine triggers go.  But my head was already feeling funky, so to return home to loud rock music could be the nail in the trigger coffin, so to speak.


This time I saw a little green light out of the corner of my eye at the same time I heard the noise.

Oh em gee, I thought.  The smell is coming from that little box with the green light!

I immediately got up, picked up the “room fragrance” box, and put it outside.  I decided it should actually be called The Migraine Machine.

It’s been about ten minutes since I put it outside, and my head is swimming. I drank a bunch of water and took deep gulps of fresh air.  I can hear Jim’s band playing from across the street, and I don’t want to go back inside the house where the drumming and guitars will possibly put me over the edge.

I chose what I hope is the lesser of two evils.  I am hoping that when I go back home in thirty minutes, my head will become clear and I will enter a quiet house where I can rest.

What do you do when triggers attack you in one of your “safe” places?

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


  • Jan
    3 years ago

    One of the worst for me is church, unfortunately. No matter if the incense is hypoallergenic, the smell is what gets to me. Not to mention the older women who douse themselves in perfume (and the men with cologne!) because they can’t smell as well as they used to. It doesn’t have to be a “bad” smell, obviously.

  • Candy
    4 years ago

    I hate those things! I had a client who had them in her apartment. Every time I was there it would go off three or four times and it seemed like it would get louder and louder with every puff! I always left there with a migraine. I tried to schedule her at the end of the day so I could go home to sleep after.

  • not another headache
    4 years ago

    The hand sanitizers and lotions with fragrance are terrible! They are primary triggers for me. I am a middle school teacher, and so many students have those little bottles attached to their backpacks or purses. I ask that no one use scented lotions or hand sanitizers in my room. If they do, I send them to the restroom to wash it off. Other students complain that the scents make their heads hurt or affect their breathing. I keep large bottles of unscented sanitizer in my room for the students.

  • fvwoo1
    3 years ago

    I am getting sick from all the Scentsy smells in every classroom. I am sick with sinus and heading into a migraine. I already take Botox shots. I don’t want to quit teaching and I also don’t allow sanitizer. I send them right to the bathroom along with the strong mint gum. I’m getting desperate.

  • not so joy
    4 years ago

    I went on vacation to a cabin in the mountains this past fall and wouldn’t you know it, the place was filled with stinkers. Almost every electrical outlet had a plug-in stink bomb. After I routed out all of them (nearly a dozen in a small two room cabin), I could still smell the chemicals and finally noticed an auto sprayer well disguised as decor that I couldn’t reach/remove right by the front door so that every time someone entered or exited the cabin that thing would unleash more misery. I couldn’t figure out why someone would use artificial stinkers in a log cabin surrounded by the wonderful woods and waterfalls.

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    My daughter came over to stay for a few weeks last summer. I didn’t realize she had a box…but one night, I kept smelling something that was giving me a nasty migraine. Turned out she had bought some new fragrance and I could smell it downstairs. I made her take it outside and it wasn’t allowed back inside.

  • Kim
    4 years ago

    Scent is the number one migraine trigger for me. Not that there aren’t a thousand others. But that is the one that hits fastest, followed closely by MSG and extreme heat. I don’t know how many times I’ve asked my mother not to wear perfume when she is with me but it never sinks in. She’ll spritz herself, lean in to me and say, “Smell. I only put a little bit on.” Then we get into the car and it becomes unbearable. Or…The Migraine Box. I laughed at your ‘The Migraine Machine’ because it was so close to my name for the car when my mother visits or we visit her.

  • aellis
    4 years ago

    I hate those damn things lol.
    Some scents are worse than others it seems.
    My best friend has them in her home but turns them off for me – I love her!

  • Anne
    4 years ago

    Someone at work wore cologne that just about killed me yesterday. I had a migraine anyway, but it didn’t help it. Also, our kitchen at work has two industrial coffee makers – that strong smell of old coffee is such a trigger.

  • Lisa Robin Benson moderator
    4 years ago

    Oh geez Janet! What torture! That’s pretty much every scent triggered migraineur’s worst nightmare! I’m not hugely triggered by scents myself but I do find myself in “safe” places being triggered. Certain houses have certain lights I always try to avoid. At work since it’s an art workshop there are a lot of things that can trigger. If I’m bad off I go somewhere as quiet as possible and rest until I’m able to get up again. I used to live in NYC–talk about triggers! I was sometimes afraid to go out because I didn’t want to be stranded with a migraine. I made sure I always had money for a cab just in case, and had earplugs and sunglasses and my medicine on me at all times.

  • Julie
    4 years ago

    I love your description of thinking about sniffing around to find the scent trigger. How many times have I wondered through a room looking for my trigger, like a bloodhound?! I once had a week when everyday I picked my daughter up from daycare, she smelled like some perfume that triggered an immediate migraine for me. It was days before I worked out that it was hand sanitizer in various scents that her teacher had given to the kids to play ‘spa’ with. I have avoided everything from Bed, Bath and Beyond since then.

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