Migraine Hacks I Wish For: The Psychic Scent Blocker

Migraine Hacks I Wish For: The Psychic Scent Blocker

This is part of a somewhat silly, somewhat silly blog series I started called “Migraine Hacks I Wish For,” a collection of would-be inventions that would make my life as a migraineur that much better.  I already “invented” glasses that would block out the lights from oncoming traffic while still letting you see the road at night. (Readers tell me that TheraSpecs and other types of migraineur-friendly glasses are helpful for this, so maybe my wish isn’t such a pipe dream after all!)  I also want to force into existence some magical earplugs called the Psychic Earplugs—they block incoming loud, sudden, and annoying sounds before they happen.

For today’s installment, I’ll continue to focus on my always-hyperactive senses. My sense of smell is always keen, and a strong perfume can push me over the line between health and migraine land pretty quickly.  A couple of months ago, Jim and I decided to run some errands. Instead of going to our usual bank, we went to one of their satellite locations. I walked in and had several deposits I had to make that very day. I should have just left the moment I smelled the air freshener permeating the small lobby.  It was so, so bad.  I had to get my deposits into the bank that day, and I’m the only signer on the account. Still, in retrospect, I wish I had left, gone out to my car, and driven through the drive-through instead.  I couldn’t find the source of the smell until we were leaving and I saw one of those heat-activated plug-ins. I was tempted to kick it out of the wall (not really) but already knew a migraine would be on its way—I was sick within ten minutes.  Oh, brain. Just calm down.

I wish that that day I’d had the [imaginary] Psychic Scent Blocker, an invisible device that blocks up your nostrils a few seconds before you encounter a particularly loathsome smell.  Did the woman on the train next to you just spray her perfume in a fine mist all around her body?  Worry not: the Psychic Scent Blocker is here!  Does the restroom at the restaurant have air fresheners installed in out-of-reach (but definitely not out-of-smell) locations?  No need to fret: the Psychic Scent Blocker is here.

For a little extra cash, you can add on a feature that will allow you to excuse yourself from the smelly situation without anyone thinking you are strange or rude.  Press a button and you are in a totally different section of the train, or in a separate bathroom in which no air fresheners have been installed.  Did you just walk into a party where so much incense was burning you thought you were back in high school?  Blink three times and you will be transported to a magical new room in the house where windows are open and no allergens or stinky smells make their way to you.

What sorts of smells would you block if you could?  Can you think of a recent time where the Psychic Scent Blocker could have prevented a particularly bad migraine episode?

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 (39)
  • Debbers
    4 weeks ago

    lavender! oh it is evil! thr crazy thing is it is often found in migraine relief rollers or recommended for pain relief.
    just makes me wanna punch people

  • Neely McCormick
    4 years ago

    Anything that is a deodorizer! I am particularly sensitive to any Febreze. The smell of it can send me into outer space. Cleaning products are the other thing and I am constantly settling for scents like “Fresh” or “Air” when I can’t find an unscented cleaning product. It’s sad that the smell of a clean house can make me feel sick.

  • Vanessa
    4 years ago

    kelly joslyn — time to get a neurologist who gets it.

  • Vanessa
    4 years ago

    the worst thing for me is the pavement, especially in the summer when it is baking. I can smell everything! oh, and a killer smell — cow manure. come on people fertilize with something else, there are so many other things to use, why use something so nasty!?

  • Jo Chanin
    4 years ago

    I remember the smell of Georgio Red perfume triggering a massive migraine. I also went out with a guy who wore a cologne that smelled like Comet cleanser.Just remembering those smells gives me the shivers.

  • Fran
    4 years ago

    I have a migraine headache that never breaks. My baseline headache is a 3-4 on the 1-10 scale that they ask you to rate your pain in the headache treatment centers. Last night I was feeling really good. We went to dinner with friends who brought another couple. She was very nice, was happy to meet me and gave me a hug. Doing so, rubbed some STRONG perfume on my cheek. Headache went up to a 7 within minutes. I tried to wash it off, managed to get my make-up off but not the smell. I moved around the table to sit as far away from her as possible. I know she thought I didn’t like her and it was uncomfortable. Usually I explain but i was just not in the mood and it usually doesn’t make things much better anyway. I wish everyone would tell people that you should be very close to someone to smell their fragrance. It’s a common allergy.

  • Traci
    4 years ago

    I’d block perfumes, smoke, and plastics.

  • kelly joslyn
    4 years ago

    my neurologist swears scents can not trigger a migraine. I know for a personal fact that is not true. malls and grocery stores are the worst

  • Fran
    4 years ago

    Your neurologist is probably not a migraine specialist.

  • jna2004
    4 years ago

    My sense of smell is very heightened. I can smell everything. The mall is horrible. Hollister clothing Stores are the worst. They sell clothes to young teens. (I was doing a happy dance when child #4 was done wearing it) You can smell it 2 stores away,and I seriously think they have their fragrance piped in thru the ventilation. Then the Bath & Body Works stores, Candle Stores etc. The large department stores have the perfume cases near the middle/front entrance. I’m always zigzagging around the stores, not to walk near those counters, (or stores) cupping my nose & mouth. The whole mall is like a mine field, lol

  • RecipeRenovator
    4 years ago

    I used to have a co-worker who wore this heavy, heavy perfume. Every day. I really liked her, but you could actually smell it even after she had visited our office and was long gone. I finally had to tell her she was giving me a headache. That, and patchouli. Bleck. And incense. Your invention is awesome.

  • Beth
    4 years ago

    I can handle some scents but others?? No!! I get sick with deep fried food smells…most restaurants are fine because they have the air circulating…but not homes, etc…. Another big trigger is eucalyptus!! My husband bought me a candle for Christmas and everytime I lite it..bang!! After the 4th time…I just threw it out!! Craziest thing is some food!! Never had a problem until I was pregnant. Now if I smell someone making a fried bologna sandwich or open a bag of corn chips…I’m done!! Sicker than sick!! I’m slowly realizing some triggers as I was just in the hospital and diagnosed with migraines.

  • Jules2dl
    4 years ago

    I’m one of those people you hate. You know how some women would never dream of leaving the house without their lipstick on? I never go anywhere without a light spritz of my favorite perfume. In fact, I’m kind of freaking out because I can’t use it while I’m at the Jefferson clinic! No, that’s imprecise, I am freaking out! Perfume is the only really feminine thing I do. I’m not much for make up or dresses and skirts, but I find scents very evocative. I even make my own linen and fabric spray.
    There are some smells that do give me a migraine though. Incense, very heavy marijuana smoke (I had to take care of my son post surgery at his apartment, he and his room mates partake frequently), and some chemical smells such as denture repair material, some other dental materials, furniture stripper, paint cleaner and the like.
    I do try to take it easy when spritz ing on my scent, as I know it is a trigger for many.

  • Alison
    4 years ago

    Can’t help with the smells but have recently bought Bose headphones which are a lifesaver. They block out sound by using a similar vibration to counteract it. Loud music, very noisy children,t.v,lawn mowers etc. I have prevented so many migraines since buying these. Expensive but worth it. If noise is a major trigger for you please look into this.

  • onehsancare
    4 years ago

    Perfume is my biggest trigger. About four years ago I bought a serious (it’s black and covers most of my face) mask for a long flight. For the last couple of years, I’ve worn it essentially whenever I’m out in public and it has saved me from literally hundreds of migraines. My family is wonderful about protecting me, but the world doesn’t give a damn.

  • reasings
    4 years ago

    I want one too!!! I would block perfume, musty smells, exhaust fumes, loud noises and an endless list of other potential triggers!

    I would pay big money 🙂

  • Melissa
    4 years ago

    Have any of you tried smearing vapor rub on your nose?

    I have a small travel tin of it in my wallet, my purse, and my coat pocket. I never go anywhere without it. Whenever I am going to be around people I always wipe a nice layer across my nostrils. It burns for a few seconds and then all I smell is the eucalyptus. It’s not perfect, but along with a mask, it does help a lot.

    Sick of going places and getting a migraine because of someone who smells, I have decided to keep my silence no longer. (to the dismay of my family) If I happen to come across a person reeking of some fragrance or another I tell them that they stink. Of course they’re offended, but then I tell them that because of them I now have to go home and suffer as my brain tries to pound its way out of my tear ducts. I never leave them with the room to reply because after I’ve said that, I walk away. I like to think that I’ve given them something to think about. At least, I hope I do.

  • KatherineO
    4 years ago

    When I lived in Los Angeles in the 1980s, there was a faux chic store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills called Giorgio. They made a hideous perfume that was unfortunately popular for a while. They piped it onto the street around the store. I could smell anyone wearing it a hundred yards away. Instant migraine. The only consolation was that even my friends who never got headaches got ill from smelling it. Scent blocker = public service!

  • Wolfe837422
    4 years ago

    Oddly enough, before a really serious migraine, I will smell cigarette smoke when there’s no physical reason for the scent to be present. I know it’s going to be bad when I wake up smelling it.

  • SamanthaAnn
    4 years ago

    At work we recently had a new group move onto our floor and with them they brought a few Scented Oil warmers with them. Every few days we get assaulted by a new fragrance. For the past two weeks since they got here my co-worker, who also has horrible migraines, and I have been miserable. Luckily, I have FMLA paperwork on file with my company (due to the frequency of my migraines) so I was able to contact my HR department and they are going to distribute a Memo to the building about strong odors. I must admit I’m happy to be working for a company that takes these things seriously.

  • Sophiasmom
    4 years ago

    I hate to break it to you all. it’s not the scent. it’s the CHEMICAL. you are all chemically sensitive. I can react to the chemical even if I don’t smell it anymore, if I have habituated to it when the scent is not as strong. just blocking your sense of smell will not do it. I have used an aromatherapy product and it DID block the smell, but I still got a “migraine”. I had a functional MRI and was exposed to Febreze at a level BELOW my odor threshold, and my brain still activated abnormally. it was responding to the CHEMICAL, not the ODOR. the reason I have migraine in quotes is because it’s not a migraine. I proved that in ME, the chemical is making my intracranial pressure go up. there is a new paper out showing that people with chronic migraine have IIHWOP. Look up “Intracranial pressure in unresponsive chronic migraine” by Roberto DeSimone. 86% of chronic migraine patients had abnormal ICP. don’t you ever wonder about what is happening in your brain when you get exposed to perfume? what is actually happening that causes pain? how do they know it’s a migraine? have you all had spinal taps to rule out IIHWOP? the headache pattern is indistinguishable and you all should have had this done. so, I’ve thought about having my olfactory nerve cut but I wouldn’t do it. it won’t help me. I need the odor as my early warning system, to get away from the chemical.

  • Flapharder
    4 years ago

    You’re absolutely right, sometimes I have noticed getting the same reaction even when I cannot smell the offending chemical, and I know that I have reaction to other chemicals, like “odorless” bug sprays etc. So it certainly makes a lot of sense. I think the reason that it works for me wearing a medical mask is that I am not breathing it in. But if there is an overload of chemicals they can still get through the medical mask, but mostly it works pretty well. Thanks for sharing the info.

  • lisamariemary
    4 years ago

    I’ve been wanting some Theraspecs, I was even telling my daughter about them the other day, but holy cow, YES! I’d *love* a psychic scent blocker. My husband always says I should work for the FBI with my super-smeller nose. It’s insane. And then it’s kind of weird sometimes, I can’t smell something that is obviously right there that other people are smelling. But yeah, smells are definitely one of my worst triggers. And I really like the Bewitched option! 😉

  • Jessica Madore
    4 years ago

    My sense of smell have become so sensitive now that even my daughter putting conditioner in her hair in her bedroom through two closed doors can set my senses on high alert. Things that never bothered me before, favorite foods, soaps, shampoos, detergents I grew up using all offend my over-sensitive nose now.

    I find myself hiding behind medical masks every time I go out in public looking like I’m contagious or afraid of contagions. I know this is what people think, not that I’m osmophobic or hyperosmic. I sit alone everywhere I go so as not to have to worry about perfumes or colognes. I hold my breath passing by people in crowded places or when an offensive odor wafts by. I have confiscated and banned all use of perfumed products in my home but my family will try to sneak them in still. I always smell them though despite being locked away & closed off in my own room. Some day the Psychic Scent Blocker will set me free again.

  • Flapharder
    4 years ago

    This sounds 100% like my own life….I know just what you are talking about.

  • Flapharder
    4 years ago

    Some work is being done on creating fragrance free working environments in the USA….but it seems it may be some time for the reality of it to actually happen….if interested, read this article (there may be hope for the future)

    http://newhorizonsilc.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/fragrance-free-proposal-gsa-buildings%E2%80%8F/

  • ellenmt
    4 years ago

    We’ve gotten to the point in the US where smoking is not tolerated indoors, but I wish perfume and cologne use in the workplace were also prohibited.

  • Pete
    4 years ago

    I recently saw an ad in Cabela’s for headphones that automatically block sounds over 70db (presumably when shooting); I would think there would be something more practical for everyday use. I think they were a couple of hundred dollars. I can look it up for you if your wish.

  • Flapharder
    4 years ago

    I cannot tell you the amount of times I have had to walk around in public with a surgical mask on, in order to carry on functioning “normally”!!! The looks you get from people are crazy! My worst was getting into an elevator and just as the doors were closing a woman ran in with the strongest perfume I have ever smelled….by the time the doors opened again I was so sick, I couldn’t continue shopping and had to go home. I now keep a surgical mask in my bag 24/7….I have given up on feeling embarrassed about how weird I look. Last year at Disney World, I walked around for hours with my mask on, because I didn’t want to disappoint my daughter by getting sick…lol…I just don’t really care what people think anymore…..bring on the scent blocker!!!!

  • Genny
    4 years ago

    That would be absolutely wonderful! Perfumes, exhaust from cars, any strong smell will just send me over the edge and unfortunately, my supervisor, just doesn’t get it…sometimes I wish I could just chop my nose off.. I even get phantom smells when one is coming on…

  • Cindy
    4 years ago

    Oh yeah for my psychic scent blocker I would add celery, cigar smoke, boiled dinner and diesel fuel or exhaust from and old car/truc to that list.

  • Tim Banish
    4 years ago

    I rarely order fountain sodas, but when I do, I always watch to make sure the person working presses the correct tab! (In lieu of that, I just buy drinks that have no diet counterparts to avoid the chances of being poisoned by artificial sweetener.) -Janet

    I usually try to go inside where I pour my own.
    One day at a place where they pour the woman began to pour diet in my cup then realized she did it wrong. She dumped out the diet and started to pour into the same cup and I stopped her. She said “I dumped the diet out”. When I said it gives me migraines she dumped that cup and got a new one. She told me of her migraines as a young lady but had out-grown them. Ahh, one kind soul found out there.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Jamie,

    Your comments cracked me up. Good point regarding how we tend to always have to accommodate–why not just send the offending scents off elsewhere?

    How does your family react to your needing to leave the house when the dogs’ smell gets to you? My mom is very sensitive to dogs and cats but I think some of our relatives think she’s exaggerating–when she has to step outside or leave all together, I sometimes wonder if they are skeptical. We all know it’s a very real sensitivity, even a dangerous one! -Janet G.

  • Nicole
    4 years ago

    I have been wishing for this a lot lately. With my migraine medication failing since June, a morning at the gym can kill my entire day. Their horrible “environmentally friendly” mopping product smells like the cherry Chapstick factory just had a meltdown. And the women in the locker room cannot judiciously spray things to save their lives and never seemed to have learned to spray away from other people.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Oh goodness. That sounds rough!

  • VickiG
    4 years ago

    Migraine Girl, you’re a genius! I want all of those inventions too. Dry-erase markers are a bad smell for me. Once in church, the speaker pulled the cap off a marker, wrote something on the board, then stood there with the marker in hand as he gestured while he spoke. For. Forty. Minutes. Another bad day was when two boys stole a bottle of Axe in Target and ran up and down the aisles spraying it around! I was about as far from the door as I could be and couldn’t get out fast enough. Oh for a Psychic Scent Blocker that day!

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    Oh, man. I just imagined myself at your church, staring with laser beam eyes at that marker willing the speaker to put the danged cap back on! -Janet

  • Tim Banish
    4 years ago

    A scent blocker would be my dream come true. Perfume really sets off a migraine for me. The musky types especially, which most people who wear them must get immune to the smell and seem to wear way too much. Every trip to a store usually finds one of these people, which usually means a migraine that night for me.
    My other dream tool would be a sugar/diet sugar meter. Diet sugars will set off a migraine for me, and I can’t believe how many times I have driven through a restaurant and ordered a regular drink for me and a diet for my wife and the server doesn’t keep them separate. When they start guessing which is which I make them re-pour each in a new cup, explaining how allergic I am to diet.

  • The Migraine Girl moderator author
    4 years ago

    I rarely order fountain sodas, but when I do, I always watch to make sure the person working presses the correct tab! (In lieu of that, I just buy drinks that have no diet counterparts to avoid the chances of being poisoned by artificial sweetener.) -Janet

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