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Smell Sensitivity

I have had chronic headache and migraine disease for well over 20 years now. The symptoms and triggers have evolved and changed throughout the years and I am always unpleasantly surprised when a new one arises, but I just roll with it and do my best to deal with it. Recently, smell sensitivity has booted light sensitivity to the curb as my #1 symptom and trigger. With light sensitivity, I can put on very dark glasses, cover my eyes with a thick black cloth I keep in my ‘migraine bag’ if we are out in the car, I can hide in my dark room, I can avoid going out & I know I can avoid light if I really need to. But SMELLS – it seems there is NO escaping them! They are everywhere and just when you think you are safe… the smell of bacon or popcorn comes wafting into your bedroom, the cool, dark haven that has always been your safe zone from the light and noise. (My bedroom is next to the kitchen, where my teenage grandson never stops cooking and eating) There is no escape from the smells that cause such pain and nausea.This is my youngest daughter’s senior year and we were out shopping for her last high school homecoming dress. We wanted to have fun, but it was pure torture. I kept a smile somehow, but there were times the smells we came across almost brought me to my knees. It would be as random as a person walking past who smells like cigarette smoke or perfume. In one shop a sales woman sprayed a room deodorizer and I almost had to leave in the middle of trying to pay for our purchase. Then, there was the food court & walking through the make up and fragrance departments at Macy’s to get to the main mall.

Over and over again the smells all around us caused that sharp, jabbing pain in my eyes and temples and made the back of my head feel like it was in a vice – then the nausea and diarrhea started. My daughter kept saying “Mom, are you ok?” I just kept telling her I was fine. I didn’t want to ruin our day. We finally made it home and I crawled in my bed in my cold, dark room to hide from the world… and in came the smell of bacon (yep, my grandson cooking again!). I just curled up under my blanket hoping it would block out the smell. I never realized all of the smells around me until the last few weeks when this new symptom (or is it a trigger?) reared its ugly head. I haven’t figured out how to deal with this yet & I am not sure I will.

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.


  • onehsancare
    2 years ago

    We finally have a fragrance policy at work, but it’s wimpy and not enforced. I am so tired of the discussions that go like, “No, I’m not wearing anything . . . ” Today, I sent a proxy to talk to the young man who triggered today’s migraine. He swears he’s wearing nothing different from what he’s worn every other Wednesday he’s worked here. No change in laundry detergent, etc. So I look like I’m imagining it. (Yeah, that ax through my head is imaginary.) Yesterday, the young woman answered my question “Are you wearing perfume or cologne?” with “I don’t know. I don’t think so. No?” This woman is a second-year law student. She knows. I get so tired of trying to educate people that, yes, hand lotion has perfume, too!

  • Shade
    2 years ago

    Yep, I can not work or socialize due to the threat of scents. Hard to have a trusting friendship with anyone with this crazy issue. My own mother thought I was “ Crazy”.

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    I don’t go out in public anymore than necessary because of my sensitivity to smell. I have certain “go to town clothes” that I take off and hang out on the porch when I get home. And keep my hair covered by a hat to keep the smells out of it. Most things I buy have to air out before being brought into the house. People smell so they aren’t welcomed into my house either unless I take particular cautions to keep their smell from transferring to the furniture. Then I have to air the house out. Food smells except for vanilla and cinnamon don’t seem to bother me but then I eat a whole foods plants only diet. For me essential oils are too strong and they smell. Do use peppermint oil in my car but have to have a window open or it would be overpowering also. Smells are not a new trigger for me but I have just gotten more sensitive over time.

  • Tamara
    2 years ago

    Is there a certain smell that you can handle? I only get sensitive to certain smells (food, smoke etc) ….. I combat it with peppermint essential oils – it sometimes blocks the other smells.

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