Coworker Gets a Migraine Every Day from My Aftershave?

Health Professional

Full Question:

I have a co-worker who claims that the aftershave I use gives her a migraine almost every workday. Come on now! Nobody can have a migraine every day. How can I get her to get over herself and stop complaining? Irritated Eugene.

Full Answer:

Dear Eugene:

Let us preface our answer by saying that we're not attempting to criticize you, but to educate you a bit so that you can more fully understand the situation with your co-worker.

Your irritation is obvious, but your impressions are incorrect:

  1. Yes, people can have a migraine every day.
  2. Fragrances are a very common migraine trigger.

Approximately 6.5 million Americans live with chronic migraine, which is defined as headache or migraine on 15 or more days per month. Tragically, some people with chronic migraine do have a migraine every day.

As we said above, fragrances are a very common migraine trigger, along with other odors such as cleaning products, air fresheners, pretty much anything that has a fragrance or odor. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it's considered a "reasonable accommodation" for people with migraine to request that their co-workers refrain from wearing fragrance, and it's been upheld in court.

Your co-worker "claiming" that your aftershave gives her a migraine every workday is quite reasonable and entirely possible. Please lift your skepticism and look at it from her point of view for just a few minutes. She's trying to go to work every day, but the fragrance is triggering a migraine every day she's at work. Many migraine triggers are not avoidable, so this situation may be especially frustrating for her. She's having daily migraines due to a trigger that is avoidable if her co-workers can accept that situation, be compassionate, and not wear fragrance to work. We hope you're now able to understand better.

Thanks for your question,
David Watson, MD, and Teri Robert


About Ask the Clinician:

Dr. David Watson is a UCNS certified migraine and headache specialists and director of the Headache Center at West Virginia University. He and Lead Health Guide Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about _ Dr. Watson_ or more about _** Teri Robert** _.

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