What can be done about perfumes and odors that trigger Migraines?

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  • Full Question:

    I get a migraine headache when I am around someone wearing perfume and I am very sensitive to odors. Can anything be done to correct this problem. I have seen several doctors and no one seems to be able to help. I had surgery for a deviated septum approx. 15 years ago and have had this problem since then. Becky.


    Full Answer:

    Dear Becky;


    You're not alone in this problem. For some patients, preventive medications that help reduce their Migraines brought on by other triggers will also help prevent those triggered by perfumes and other odors. For some, it seems that medications don't help those at all.

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    If this is a problem at work, talk with your supervisor about asking other employees not to wear perfume or fragranced products to work. There is legal precedent for employers having to address this under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Take a look at Migraines, Perfume, and the Americans with Disabilities Act for more information on this.


    Some people have a little trick that sometimes works if they get on an elevator with someone wearing fragrance or encounter it in a situation where they don't have to stay in the presence of the offending odor. They carry a little bottle of "smelling salts" made by putting sea salt in a small bottle and adding peppermint essential oil. When someone comes by wearing fragrance, they get out the bottle and smell the peppermint oil. Of course, this isn't a good idea if essential oils trigger a Migraine, but some people who are triggered by perfumes find that the essential oils aren't a problem. A bonus is that the same bottle can help relieve nausea when you do have a Migraine.


    Good luck,
    John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert



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    About Ask the Clinician:

    Dr. Krusz is a recognized expert in the fields of headache and  Migraine treatment and pain treatment. Each week, he and Lead Expert Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and  Migraines. You can read more about Dr. Krusz or more about Teri Robert.


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    Last updated August 15, 2010.

Published On: August 15, 2010