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Asthma/strong reaction to deodorant and perfume?

_cherry_ profile image


I was diagnosed with exercise induced asthma back in 2011 and I am able to manage it very well except for when I have an infection of any kind (because then, a few stairs already count as exercise). Since about 3 years I noticed that also strong smells like deodorant and perfume seem to trigger my asthma, whenever someone sprays themselves with that stuff around me I cannot breathe and need to open a window/leave the room. This has been gradually getting worse, and I even had a few asthma attacks because of this. Anyone else with the same problem? Can you actually be allergic against some of the chemicals in deodorant/perfume?

Right now, I am going to boarding school so I live with roommates who unfortunately are not very mindful of my asthma, despite me telling them that they need to use their deodorant outside they just use it in the room, causing me to have 4 asthma attacks within this week. Maybe I am just so sensitive right now because I also have bronchitis...yesterday I was barely able to stand the smell of my own showering gel (which really isn't that strong) and I am just a bit worried where this is coming from...

I would really appreciate some advice on this topic and sorry if this post is a bit long, I am new here.

14 Replies

Hi Cherry & welcome. I react to perfumes & any kind of sprays although to be honest not as badly as you. I start coughing & feel uncomfortable. I struggle with the spray inhalers. When I was being diagnosed with asthma the doctor prescribed Ventolin because he wanted my peak flow to improve from the 350 I was at to nearer 400. Over the month I was on it my peak flow dropped to 220 & not knowing anything about asthma I didn't realise how bad that was. I now use a dry powder inhaler as my reliever & things are a lot better.

You say you're at boarding school, is there not a matron or teacher who could explain to your roommates how this affects you & also ensure they use things like that in the bathroom. I would have thought that would make things better for everyone not just asthmatics.

I use bar soap rather than shower gel. (it's a lot cheaper too.)

_cherry_ profile image
_cherry_ in reply to lakelover

Hi lakelover,

I was prescribed a dry powder reliever as well, which hopefully will make things better.

We do have house parents here, and my house parent already spoke to the roommates...maybe they will only understand once I need an ambulance because of them...which of course I don't want to happen, but maybe this is the only cure for ignorance.

The thing with the bar soap is a good idea, will give it a try!

My husband is a very kind man... but I have struggled to get him to stop using his Lynx aerosol. Finally he uses a roll on but only after a year of him being shouted at to open tge bathroom window so I can breathe when I go in. I think he's realised that I'm not over reacting and that I do struggle. I guess it's their right for themselves but as they don't suffer they just cannot understand.

My sister is the same with her sprays. She just doesn't understand that its not about an offensive smell it causes my discomfort. You know what really effects me? Hairspray. I physically feel pain around or in my lungs (but i have had pneumonias)

i also use bar soap and Lush bar hair soap and their deoderant.

I've never had an attack but i can see where my asthma is heading. I feel for you.

_cherry_ profile image
_cherry_ in reply to hygge

Oh yeah hairspray is awful!

And the thing with not suffering and not understanding might be true...because at home I sometimes have the same problem with my mother and sister (my mother is asthmatic herself but doesn't react to deodorant etc.), but they are realizing now that it's a bit more serious than just discomfort.

I put a sign up on the door now saying that no deodorant and perfume should be used in the room, maybe this little reminder helps already, we will see.

Hopefully I will find ways to deal with this, as I have to live with my roommates until May.

Yes, me, too, though not as bad as you. I am quite old, and have had a lifetime of not reacting like this, but now I do since my asthma got more significant. I have a cousin who has needed medical attention due to such smells. Other things I find difficult as air fresheners, oil based decorator’s paint, theatrical smoke, cleaning products like Pledge, and I am sure I will discover more.

Anything with an astringent smell (perfumes, soaps, candles etc) is liable to start me off. However, I do have nasal polyps and since having been prescribed a spray to deal with these those scents no longer have the same effect. Have you been checked for nasal polyps? Quite common with asthmatics.

_cherry_ profile image
_cherry_ in reply to Taztarr

Hm no I haven't been checked for nasal polyps but it's definitely something I should keep in mind! Thanks for that.

I too react badly to all perfumed products, including shampoo, laundry products, and even natural fragrance in flowers. Bleach affects me, any type of smoke and exhaust fumes, in fact all strong smelling chemical products. I have asthma and bronchiectasis and had pneumonia twice. I have cut out most of the irritants by buying fragrance free products. I can understand how my children hated it when I wore perfume in the car!

Please explain to people about this problem and make life more comfortable for yourself. I am now retired and was fortunate that my work colleagues stopped wearing perfume. Most people will understand why. Maybe you can show these posts to your room mates.

Taking control and eliminating these irritants will improve your asthma symptoms.

Best wishes.

Yes, perfumes etc can cause asthma symptoms. I have a similar problem. A lot of doctors and nurses don't realise how bad it can be.

If you need to show your school matron and others at your school that this needs to be taken seriously then you could show them the document about Health and Safety at Work which recognises the health problems perfumes and air freshners can cause for people with asthma (see under paragraph "Too many triggers").

Perfumes and scents act more like irritants than true allergies. In a similar way to wood smoke or diesel fumes. Many of the ingredients in perfumes and scents - and they are made up of many - are known irritants. If you have bronchitis then these chemicals can act as further irritantts. Imagine if it is was on your skin and you could see it was inflamed then washed it in something which made it worse! Someone using perfumes near you would be like blowing cigarette smoke at you!

Additional information

Hope you soon have feeling better. You can phone the Asthma UK helpline for advice too.

_cherry_ profile image
_cherry_ in reply to strongmouse

Thanks a lot for the detailed reply. I definitely will have another conversation with the school and roommates, and the analogy with the skin is really good. Probably the problem with asthma is that people cannot really see it, but with eg skin you can... hopefully the situation will improve soon.

If you want to get your roomies on side try this simple demonstration: gather them together and give them each a drinking straw. Ask them to pinch their noses and breathe through the straw for just two minutes. No more, two minutes exactly. Then tell them that's what's it's like for you for hours when your asthma kicks in. Hopefully that should help focus their thoughts.

_cherry_ profile image
_cherry_ in reply to Taztarr

Oh wow that's a good idea! Will definitely try that!

go gym regullary, tred mill should do the job.

I totally hear you - I hate those perfumed things too and completely empathise. I used to end up in a panic attack situation over an actual attack sometimes too, as I was worried I’d have an attack and I’d get all worked up!

Perhaps one of the staff can explain to your room mates this is not on and that they need to be more considerate?

I struggle with air fresheners the most, one Xmas at my in-laws I stashed them all away in the cupboard under the sink. Since then they turn them off when they know I’m

Coming over 🤣

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