British Lung Foundation
33,817 members41,261 posts

Smells

Hi all. I’ve got emphysema and bronchiectasis. Was diagnosed about a year and a half ago. Had something like 6 courses of anti bios and steroids over the last few months. My wife still smokes but is really good about leaving the room to spare me the second hand smoke. Problem is that the smell when she returns seems to really set me off and make me cough and gag. She thinks it’s just anxiety or that I’m making it up. Do other people experience this reaction to the smell?

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Hi

With emphysema secondhand smoke, even the smell can act as a trigger making you more breathless. There are many products that cause triggers. If you can smell it you must be breathing it in.

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I keep smelling bleach but also wondering how they clean the emergency size o2 tanks

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Lots of smells i am sensitive to as i’m sure we all are. The worst for me at the moment is cooking smells.! I can feel my chest tightening especially after fried food. It’s not pleasant and people who dont suffer dont understand.

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My husband did some research and now goes outside to smoke, at least six feet from doors and windows, and avoids coming too close to me for 10 minutes when he comes in because cigarette smoke can travel anywhere and makes me cough and choke even if only inhaled from his clothing.

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I can’t stand smoke, I start coughing straight away. Usually get it at the bus stop where they are all smoking like death do us part before they get on the bus!

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yes, the odors in the air can really set me off...perfume, cooking doors, of course, cigarette smoke, etc.

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Yes I react to cigarette smells or smoke from fires, and all manner of perfumes,fragrances, cleaning products, paint fumes. Being around these things can cause me to have a lung infection. I have bronchiectasis and also Idiopathic subglottic stenosis (Narrowing at the top of the trachea). It can be difficult initially being diagnosed as family and friends do not realise just how difficult it is.

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I was in a shop the on Friday to buy a replacement iPad, it took literally few seconds to react to firstly the faint smell of the fact salesperson had been smoking quickly followed by breathlessness, coughing and my chest tightening. I asked him if he had been smoking he replied he had and “most of the staff do”. When I gently told him that the smell sticks to his cloths and can have a detrimental effect on people with respiratory illness he just schrugged and continued at his computer

This time as I really needed to buy this item, I stood my ground asking to see the manager and an alternative sales person.

Thankfully the manager was most apologetic and assured me he would ensure he would make the other person and other staff aware this was not to happen again.

I’ve been diognosed for some 10 years, my life now revolves around exercising and keeping as fit as possible but sadly both age and progress of my condition has happened. Due to my COPD I also now have GERD acid reflux as well as being hypasensitive to chemical smells, I now use white vinegar for everything from as a whitener and softener, a window and household cleaner as well as a steriliser in bathroom and worktops, I’ve also descovered it great on my car window screen as an anti over. I just find chemical cleaning products cause me problems. Even cosmetics, and heavy scented flowers effect my lungs.

I have to jokingly tell friends I can’t visit them as their homes smell!! When we go away I have to instruct owners to remove all air/fabric fresheners. Chemicals are now causing me more problems than my condition.

Your problem is real, sadly as an ex smoker myself I had no idea how smell I was and now cringe at the memory of attending meetings after a long chain smoking journey and how awful I must have smelt.

I think I’m going to mount an anti scented air-fresheners in shop and restaurant toilets as I have to make a choice of relieving my need to use the facility or not being able to breath. It’s posible to buy deodarisors with no added perfumes that acts as well.

For every one with any lung conditions rise up politely inform the powers that be the effects these product have on so many of us.

Sorry for going on... but my life is being limited by chemical smells more than my illness and I’m getting angry....Grrr!!

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I agree with you felixfm our life is limited by all these things. And it is not good that we are hugely impacted socially on top of having the illness.

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Many thank for your support.

I feel if we don’t inform retailers ( especially supermarkets) they won’t make changes that would make all us suffer (children with asthma I understand also suffer from chemical odours) lives happier and easier.

Trading conditions are so difficult at this time, so maybe they would be more open to making these easy changes to their toilets. It just may help us linger and spend more....now surely that’s a good carrot to dangle.

Stay safe and happy.

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Yes absolutely. It sure is worth a try.

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We have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

I think it’s through ignorance of the effects on others by the shops...I do wonder how the staff can stand working with the smells that billow out from their entrances.

Sounds like I should bring my soapbox out from retirement!!

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Good on you for being willing to speak out. People just don't seem to understand the difficulty these things make for people with lung problems.

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I could have written that myself. You are so right. There are too many chemicals and smells around that affect us. All what you said relates to me , apart from the chaining it, i never smoked more than 20 a day but have copd as a consequence of what i did. Thank you for that post, so true, and i think more should be done in the environment for sufferers like us. There are allowances made for deaf and blind people and wheelchairs etc and thats a good thing, but what about us silent sufferers? We have to virtually look after ourselves.

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Hi felixfm. I could not agree more. I tend to take cautionary sniffs before entering anywhere. When you go into a shop etc. you just don't know who else has been or is there and has been/is a "Splash it all over" merchant. I hate going into town because of the smokers and trying to avoid them and unless it is a very windy day the whole precinct smells of cigarette smoke.

You are definitely not alone in this. All my soaps and shampoo have to be un-scented. No air fresheners (opening the window is better anyway) or aerosols. Even when my partner makes herself toast, it has to be done with the door closed and the extractor fan running. A lot of our meals are now done in a "slow cooker" which really does cut down on cooking fumes and exceptionally tasty.

Then there is my other pet hate, wood burners, that will make me ill for 24 hours after being exposed. I now hate winter and not because of the cold, the only way I can really avoid their stench is by using a taxi to go anywhere as I can no longer walk the streets.

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My research into smells that trigger my asthma, a huge problem for me too, led me to realising that artificial perfumes....household and personal....are generally ‘fixed’ during manufacture with salicylic acid, the main constituent of aspirin and ibuprofen. It’s the ‘fixer’ that seems to cause my problems, I think.

Salicylates are also in foods, and after research, modifying my diet, and learning how to eliminate/ reduce the body’s storage of salicylates, I have had a major improvement in my asthma. Ventolin/salbutamol also includes salicylates so I had to swap to bricanyl as a reliever inhaler.

Sensitivity to salicylates is not easy to test, and so doesn’t make much headway in the official medical world. My GP was satisfied with my elimination diet and other evidence so supports me in finding medications that do not include salicylates.

I sort my food out myself and 100% know it works. I have no control over smells outside my own environment, and become very socially isolated in winter/spring/autumn months especially when people’s homes, pubs, hotels etc are less well ventilated. Hotels are a year round problem due to laundry smells and so called air fresheners. More expensive places are usually survivable in the rooms but usually not the corridors....I wear a light scarf and put it over my face to travel round, but more usually just stay home where it’s safe.

I’m also sensitive to strong flower perfumes, smoke etc.

Just thought I’d say. I’m pleased to note that this BLF site recognises sensitivity to salicylates as an asthma trigger but detail is brief. So often mention is limited to aspirin and ibuprofen as only salicylate triggers. Hospitals recognise sensitivity to these drugs, then want to pump salbutamol into me. I stay away as much as possible. Fortunately my respiratory problems are ‘limited’ to asthma, which was severe until I re-diagnosed myself. It still gets triggered by viruses, flu - every time, but I don’t have copd or any other complications.....yet.

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"Hospitals recognise sensitivity to these drugs, then want to pump salbutamol into me."

As a Bricanyl user myself I agree with that statement, only for different reasons Salbutimol gives me severe, disabling leg cramps and it's extremely painful.

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Hi 2greys, I have a similar difficulty trying to convince health professionals about my problems with salbutamol. Last time I was in hospital I was nebulised with it using oxygen, and my O2 levels fell....alarm bells were ringing .

I can't use aspirin either.

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Thanks for the tip. I'm off to the shop for white vinegar. ..when I've got the strength to unplug my scooter. Jane

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Check out uTube, some brilliant suggestions and advice for using White vinigar.

Even my daughters-in-laws are converts. Not to mention the amazing saving you make, 5lts containera are just about £3.00...need any more convincing?🙂

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It is good that some of our group here can cope with vinegar I find that is a real problem for me so have to avoid it for cleaning or using.

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Hi and I was almost standing to attention as I read through your message. Very well said and you are totally,100% correct,that the general population have no idea just how unpleasant it is when your lungs dont like a smell !! I can tell if a person walks on the pavement nearest to my bedroom and is smoking,wearing copious amounts of scent etc etc. If only we could be employed to put our senses to good use and earn us a crust or two!

Well done for speaking up in the shop about the smoking salesman. I shall be trying white vinegar myself so thanks for the recommendation.

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And So Say All Of Us feelixfm. H

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Your right to be concerned I can get a coughing bout and become breathless just from the smell of cigarettes as well as other items like perfumes, air fresheners and certain cleaning products so no your right. Maybe if she were to suck a mint straight after and wash her hands on coming back into the house it might help you.

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Those in car air fresheners ....they are a pet hate, especially when you have to wait next to a stand of them at a checkout.

And walking past people who have been smoking or still are smoking when standing in doorways outside the library and other buildings.

Plug in air fresheners!

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Hear, hear...I refuse taxi’s and mini cabs that have them, this often lays me open to the drivers bile, but once I explain they understand and help.

Reading everyone else’s heart felt experience convinces me more we must all speak out and inform those who are living in ignorance not just how it’s affecting the now suffers, but the danger they are being exposed to by the chemicals we all now take as the norm.

Hopefully as we pass on the problems with chemical in products around us, by writing on consumer and retailers customer review websites we may be able to inform, educate and in time by understanding the issues they will effect changes.

Thanks to everyone who’s written, it’s made me feel I’m not alone and just being a difficult cantankerous white haired old (opps..aging) woman!

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Disposable face masks. I now carry a couple with me whenever I go out into the big wide world. At the moment the worst places I have to go is hospitals, having to take my father for check-ups, my husband for operations and check-ups and lastly myself. I found that I was having major attacks that if I was out anywhere else would have me ringing 999. It turns out that I cant take the cleaning materials they are using. They are probably much stronger now because of all the bugs in hospitals these days. So now I always take disposable face masks with me and if they don't work they can always whip me down to A&E.

Sue

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Face masks don’t work for me, I’m sorry to say, unless I’ve tried the wrong ones. Amongst others, I tried organic cotton ones when doing out the garage. Struggled so much to breathe, I had to retire to recover!! I read that they limited air intake, so not for asthmatics

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Oh sorry that's a bit of a bother then, I am on oxygen now so wearing a mask these days is just another bit of stuff hanging around my face especially if I'm listening to audible book on the earphones. Hubby says with my oxygen tank, cannula, glasses, mask and earphones I am starting to look like a creature sent to earth to zap the human race. It might be worth while checking to see if the heavy duty masks which filters the air being breathed in might be a possibility. Good luck with the quest.

Sue

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I'll try the heavy duty version then. Thanks, Sue xx

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Relieved to see this is common and not just me! My awareness of all scents and smells has been steadily intensifying.

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Yes, smells can set off coughing and/or sneezing and/or shortness of breath. My husband goes into a sneezing fit when he goes into an air conditioned room.

I don't wear perfume when I know I'll be around people. Just someone else wearing it can set people off.

Beth

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Copd patients generally have a low tolerance to strong smells especially smoke .explain how much it hurts and distresses you and im sure a compromise can be reached

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I'm clearly in the minority here, in fact a minority of one, but I really don't expect the whole world to change their ways merely to accommodate me. I appreciate those who don't smoke around me, but I would never expect someone in the street to put out a cigarette or not wear perfumes or use air fresheners in their own homes just because it was briefly uncomfortable for me. Cooking smells? Should we all eat raw food to avoid just possibly inconveniencing someone? Unreasonable and unrealistic in my opinion.

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I appreciate where you’re coming from, and I would probably feel the same, except that it’s not that I don’t like the smell, or that I think that people are being rude, it’s that it makes me feel like throwing up, passing out and just giving up.

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Hi Pete,

Some of the chemical odours and household smells mentioned in the replies do have a similar effect on me, stage 4 COPD with 23% lung capacity, so I am not making light of your problems. It's just that I can't in all honesty expect everyone to go out of their way to pander to my particular difficulties at the expense of getting on with their own lives in a reasonable manner. I completely understand and agree that sometimes these things can make us feel rotten, but there are many many people in this world with health problems and we all have to co-exist as best we can.

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I know. And i agree, but it’s difficult when the only alternative is to lock yourself away.

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I do believe the world became way more perfumed when plug ins, car air freshners, bath bombs everywhere, Christmas time now brings bags of cinnamon pine cones to the front doors of stores...many bags!!! In not knowing if I can use brand names, I bet, you can guess what I am speaking of...lol...alot of offices and stores now have sprayed freshners that go off every so often. Along with the plug ins. That spray that gets ride of odours everywhere...it is in everything... the spray the young men cover themselves in, why so much!!...I believe if we all think about it...it's been in the last 10 or so years...that everything has to have a scent a smell...and, I'm not that old I tell myself...a child of the 70s...lol remember when we could actually smell the bakery? Or the fresh rain? The smells today...are much...much stronger. And, I'm a true believer in everyone doing what that want to do....but, these things are harmful to everyone even the healthy...

Take good care.

Meg xx

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Maybe BLF should have a flash message campaign bringing the problem of smell triggers for people with lung problems, to the general public.

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