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The perennial perfume problem: Will we ever solve this one?

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Question: "How do you tell your co-worker she's wearing too much perfume? It gives some people a headache—not to mention its effect on people with allergies.” – Andrea

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Joan August 11, 2016 at 6:37 pm

I too have run into an issue with a co-worker who is scent sensitive. I stopped wearing perfume, switched shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and soaps (putting my own family at risk in the event they could react to something new) for this sensitive person and I am still being harassed by this co-worker. I am well aware of the seriousness of allergies, as I also have them and went through many years of injections for them. This situation seems to me more of a harassment/bullying case.


Kimber September 6, 2016 at 11:27 am

I am in the same situation. It’s extremely distressing to me because I just don’t know what else to do. I don’t wear my favorite scent at work cuz this person is a bit hysterical. Others are wearing a LOT of perfume but no problem. In fact one lady wears a scent that makes me want to barf but is one of the people most vocal about no scents in the work place. I ready to look for another job at this point.


Anonymous September 6, 2016 at 12:07 pm

I am extremely disappointed in your lack of compassion and knowledge regarding those with fragrance hypersensitivity. Those with a hypersensitivity to fragrance cannot chose how or when their body will react to a chemical. Calling someone hysterical who has an allergic reaction to your fragrance is a derogatory statement, and if I was that employee, I would report you to management for making those kind of abusive statements towards me. You may be causing your co worker to have an asthma attack or skin and eye irritation, and every time you wear that scent, you are increasing the hypersensitivity response in that persons body. If you are having problems with someone wearing a scent that is causing you nausea, then report it to management. Good luck getting any help, though, because management usually cannot do anything about the person who wears it. Maybe they can help relocate you to a better spot away from your co workers so that you do not bother them and vice versa. Your co worker would probably really enjoy you leaving, so I recommend finding a new job, especially if they have to deal with your derogatory comments towards them and lack of empathy shown towards others.


Kimber September 6, 2016 at 1:39 pm

Did you not read my entire post? Perhaps you’re just not that bright. I don’t wear any scents at work. If an article of clothing gets in contact with something else that did have perfume on it than it may carry that scent with it. Or maybe my laundry detergent is offensive. Either way I am embarrassed and distressed by this person making a fuss. And I am polite and accommodating as much as possible. But as I previously mentioned I am not wearing anything. And it’s easy to be a vicious twat when you’re “anonymous” on the internet. But I don’t have to tell you that now do I?


kate May 14, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Oh, ‘maybe’ your laundry detergent is offensive?
I was reading your comment empathetically, then that suprised me because yeah, laundry products are often heavily scented, and, here is the tricky part, even unscented ones can be very irritant and affect the sense of smell or sinus.

So it is confusing. I can believe the co-worker is being short with you all, if they are distressed by something genuinely causing irritation at work. I can also believe that some people with genuine irritations get so isolated and distressed by it that they don’t realize how abrupt they seem.
On the other hand, I doubt very much it is bullying.
If someone wanted to bully you about scent, and I have seen staff do this, they are more likely to mock, and I have seen that far more often with staff who use air fresheners taunting staff with severe asthma.

On the other hand, someone is not necessarily faking it if they find some products irritating and other perfumes not. It just could mean some scented products have whichever ingredent they are sensitized to and the others don’t.

Also, and this is a big but common if, it might be that what is irritating them is not actually the scent, but something else commonly in scented products, so they think it is scent. And you aren’t wearing scent so you think they are are harassing you.

An example of this is that many fabric softeners have indgredient, quats or quaternary ammonium compounds, which are a really, very common irritant for people with asthma or sinus pain. And conflict arises because the person thinks, they have a fragrance allegry because they first got the pain with the scent, these laundry products are usually scented. And the person they are complaining to thinks no way, as they aren’t using heavy perfume or perfumed soaps, and if they use a laundry product they chose one which doesn’t seem heavy on scent. But it is still irritating them because of the base ingredient in them, which is the real problem

So part of it is, it can actually be confusing as hell for the person themselves to narrow it down. Also, making it worse, irritation can cause phantom scents. People can be not lying, genuinely experiencing pain on exposure to the irritant and also having a memory/phantom scent of the frarganced product that usually causes them this pain, when exposed to any product with the same base ingredients.

Meanwhile the other people often saying ‘I’m not using scent’ are still using scent in one area, or some other product which is labelled ‘natural or ‘sensitive’ but is still scented [which is really common] or they really are 100% scent free, but little do they know a regular product has some other commonly irritant ingredient other than scent which is causing trouble and confusion

I have learnt so much about scent and irritations since I started supervising, and it seems to me that better labelling and some change in the harsher base ingredients in many of these products would clear up many, many problems.

And while I do agree that sufferers can get so stressed sometimes, they may show more stress than usually is expected at work, I have never met anyone who was making it up to harass. The people should not be rude, or make unrealistic claims – but I increasingly give leeway that they may be reacting to things those of us without sensitivities don’t notice and it’s incredibly confusing.

Deborah October 13, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Thank you, Anonymous!


Anonymous May 7, 2016 at 9:42 am

It just blows my mind the lack of respect and regard for the health and well being shown to those employees who suffer from hypersensitivity to fragrances. Those who wear perfume/cologne and intentionally continue to wear it, knowing the impact it has on the health of their coworkers, is sadistic and cruel in my mind. The lack of care and concern the perfume wearers show for other people is mind blowing. It is like taking pepper spray and hitting people with it intentionally, knowing full well it could hurt them, and continuing to do it. The only thing that allows me to forgive these people (I hesitate to even call them human) is the fact that some fragrances are known to have narcotic like chemicals in them, and they may be physically and psychologically dependent on them, like a true addiction.

Otherwise, I wish the perfume wearers could be prosecuted for assault, because they are literally destroying my health, my lungs, my eyes, and my skin, and I wish I could sue them for the adverse effects they are causing to my health. Maybe then, I could recover some damages for all the doctors office visits, medications, gas masks, and air purifiers I have to purchase just to breathe around you jerks that think it is your right to wear fragrance and hurt me! I am praying someday I will be able to do this. Be prepared, it is only a matter of time before we recognize the toxicity of fragrance chemicals is just as bad or worse than tobacco smoke!


Hospital Patient February 4, 2016 at 6:10 am

I’m in hospital recovering from spinal surgery. Breathing is difficult, yet crucial to recovery.

Visiting a copatient is a woman wearing string perfume, the smell of which floods the room.

She is unaware of the problem she is causing me.

It takes my breath away. I can’t inhale as fully as I need to be. This is distressing. It’s similar to an asthma attack.

I’m too polite to say anything to her, so I just wanted to use the reach of this forum to let people know how distressing the use of strong perfumes can be to hospital patients.

Thanks you.


SK October 15, 2015 at 11:53 am

I see this conversation started two years ago at this same time. I think there is another chain of conversations recently on this topic as well.
The problem started for me in the early 1980s. After doing some research, I found that in the late 70s and early 80s, perfume companies started using synthetic ingredients (read: chemicals) instead of natural ingredients for the fragrances. So, if perfume wearers think they are wearing “fragrance,” they are actually wearing “chemicals.”
It makes sense for people who are chemically sensitive to have problems with this.
Right now, for some reason, in the last three months, my floor of the office building has been inundated with perfume that highly agitates me–migraine, asthma, nausea, and sometimes it’s all I can do keep from passing out. I can’t walk on one side of the building (my side) to get to the other side. I have to go around the other side.
I’ve spoken with two supervisors and the company nurse. They all say they’ll get back to me. It’s been two months now.
I am going to ask the nurse for a face mask. We’ll see how it looks for me to have to wear a face mask to breathe.
As frustrated as Chrissy is to have someone pointing fingers at her for wearing perfume, I am 100 times more frustrated with people who wear it, knowing it will make me ill.
And it’s part of the dress code where I work to not wear perfume. I’ve been to HR with my dilemma and they haven’t moved on it either.
If I pass out, or have to go to the hospital, they will know about me then. But I wish they would save me the embarrassment of throwing up in the hall or passing out at a meeting. I could get hurt if I hit my head when I fall!
Has anyone else here complained to HR or the company nurse? What’s been the outcome.


Debra October 15, 2015 at 11:58 am

Thank you for this added piece of information – now that you mention the chemical component into the factor it makes perfect sense. All added chemicals are causes for quite a number of health issues from obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and of course the big one cancer!


EM January 24, 2017 at 2:18 pm

It took my HR two months to respond to my complaint and my manager made a snarky comment about my issue. No one seems to take it seriously, even the woman wearing the perfume (who I’ve personally spoken to about it twice). I see that I have two options at this point: moving cubicles away from my working group or looking for a new job. I am taking the first option so that I can have a healthy work environment, but I have just decided to start looking for work elsewhere because I prefer working in a more supportive environment. I am documenting EVERYTHING at this point, even recording the days and times she walks down my aisle for no particular reason other than to chat (which she didn’t start doing until she knew I was having problems with her perfume).


Debra October 15, 2015 at 11:13 am

It sounds like Chrissy is taking this subject too personally. I too suffer from frequent allergic reactions to perfume and it isn’t the same from one day to the next. You cannot blame the person who is having the reaction any more than you can fault the person with a nut allergy. It is an increasingly common problem – or has become an acknowledge problem now. We are sorry for your having to accommodate our medical problems, we certainly don’t want to have these health issues!
And it doesn’t matter what form of perfume you are wearing – toilet water, bath spray, powder, lotion, cream, you name it – it is the scent or chemical make up of the perfume that is setting off the allergic reactions.


chrissy May 20, 2015 at 2:15 pm

I Understand that a coworker of mine has a sensitivity to certain fragrances that tiger an allergic reaction. What I don’t understand is when we have 25 different patients and 8 employees in our office daily and nothing tigers my Co workers sensitivity except me. I smell so many different strong to mild, harsh to soft fragrances on so many patients comming in daily and She is fine. Some can fill the entire office. She only goes into symptoms when she smells somthing on me. I am the only person asked to not wear any scents. It doesn’t matter what I wear. I stopped using sprays and switched to lotion and have tryed several different scents. Also bought these from different stores. Not just all from bath and body works or Victoria secrets for example. Drug stores and department stores. Doesn’t matter. I can wear a scent for a few weeks and nothing and I think ok, she is fine with this, then suddenly one day she smells me and she goes into an attack. I know patients have on some of the dame scents I have worn but it does not affect her. In addition she has cause extrem drama and has walked out angry and went home after yelling “Why did u wear perfume today?” I’m reprimanded by boss and told not to wear anything. I don’t wear perfume, only body spray or lotion. Anyway, why just me and not any of the 100’s of people who come in and out monthly. She works up front is receptionist and they are all up there with there mingling scent
I work in the back away from her. I just don’t understand. Plus tired of the drama, being singled out, embarrassed, and humiliated. It is very offensive to me when treated as if I stink and have caused a Co worker harm I have have feelings too and have tried to accommodate her condition. So what do u think is happening here? Please help.


Susan May 4, 2016 at 11:27 pm

Sounds like you may be being bullied as this person seems only to criticise the way you are smelling


kate May 14, 2017 at 3:32 pm

This sounds unusual.

It’s not unusual or a sign of faking that they react to some scents and not others, as only some may have whatever ingredient it is that they have a reaction to.

But for you to try many products and her not react to other people wearing the exact same product, is a bit weird.

And I say that as someone who, in 100% of everyone I have supervised, anyone who claimed they were being bullied by requests to accomodate fragrance sensitivities was actually doing some bullying, or was not really aware of how they were in fact very noticably scented to other people, because they hadn’t thought about things other than actual perfume as scented, but they had like very heavy scented deodorant or used air fresheners in small office spaces.

Have never come across someone complaining about the same product for one person but being fine with it for others. You may be the case where she is reacting to something else.

A few things, I’d be wondering if I was the supervisor here;

– does this person have any grievace with the worker. I really do not find that people make it up about irritations but in a really unusual case like this, they might consciously or not be stressed or angry at a coworker and take it out on them by being extra demanding abou the scent. It is even possible, really, that high stress can inflence how much a person notices scent. So I would have to, politely, also ask the person complaining was there anything I should know why they might be stressed or angry at you, though I would also assure them that I do take accomodations seriously But the same scent, different people example would be something to raise here.
-on the other hand, I am suprised that apparently management have spoken to you, and yet you say you dont use anything only body spray and lotion. So, you do wear scent. And you say that you tried many products, but..were they all strongly scented products If I am wrong please forgive me and ignore this bit, but I would also be asking this. Because if a person tried 30 strongly scented products, and used body sprays not dab perfume, well they haven’t actually changed the fact that they are using strongly scented products.
-how is your sense of smell? Sometimes when people are worried about being bullied and its getting humilating and stressful for them too, they don’t realize how strong the scent they have is, because there is some reason their sense of smell is not that good either and they haven’t realized it. Many health problems or even smoking can affect this.

But overall – she should not be storming out and yelling at you , that is unprofessional and embarassing even if she believes she had some cause to be upset – and I don’t get the different response to the same products.

Also; what do others think? Is this co-worker the only person who can smell anything at all? That wouldn’t mean they were lying, sensitivities can be very specific to certain products, but if everyone else thinks you really aren’t noticably perfumed, especially not compared to the clients they have at reception, I’d be having to ask, is this person just responding to stress or is there something else, even something out the back where you work, that is coming off on you and is why she is having reactions regardless of product change.

In any case I would ask her to go through me, rather than have outbursts, for everyones sake.


Me April 2, 2015 at 8:57 am

Melody,I have multiple chemical sensitivity and we don’t choose what sets off a bad reaction. I get bad reactions from fragrances even when I might like the smell of it. I’ve had to stop wearing fragrances almost completely. Even my own scented deodorant has made me ill. I think you are taking something personal that is not at all personal.

You have to understand what people go through with these reactions. One co-worker who wore too much cologne and his cologne made me get cluster headaches that would last for 3-4 days just from being exposed once. Another woman was notorious for wearing too much “granny perfume “. I once wore an apron she had on and my skin broke out in hives. Not only did I hate the smell, it also gave me nausea and headaches. Another girl wore so much body spray, I could tell when she was at work before I would see her. It leaves a toxic trail. I think you should learn more about what kind of toxic chemicals are in fragrances, and understand that some people react to that. We can’t help it, and I understand the embarrassment of being told that you have on too much fragrance. Before I developed MCS, I loved perfume. Now I am limited to what doesn’t make me feel asthmatic or sick for days.


Jo October 18, 2013 at 9:10 am

I not only have scent sensitivity but also sound sensitivity. It is difficult in an office full of women when they all wear fragrances and most of them are irritants to me, but the largest irritant is the incessant chattering, non-work related, that goes on. I am close to retirement but don’t want to have to retire just to get some peace and quiet. I am always mindful of my fellow co-workers and try never to do anything that would hurt any of them. I have requested politely several times for them to just lower the tone of their conversations however, nothing as helped. I deserve the right to have a nice work atmosphere but am thinking of changing jobs. Unfortunately no way of knowing if things would be any different in a new place.


Bee October 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I have no sense of smell. If I am around a person or place and my nose and/or eyes start running I assume it is an odor from a perfume or chemical. When I am in a crowd (stores especially) it is hard to tell what or where the odor is coming from. I can also be an instant headache that borders a migraine, and an upset stomach “for no apparent reason.” Sometimes I can get a second or two of a taste instead of a smell. It can be embarrassing for me because some perfume/cologne will trigger an almost immediate gag response. If I think I “smell” something, I will ask someone who knows me if they smell anything. I got a brief “taste” of what I thought was tuna one day that turned out to the odor of the roof being re-tarred. I was the only person in the company who could work in my office that day. Another day I became sick and had to leave the building when an outside visitor came into our department. The perfume was almost unnoticeable to others, but I became sick to my stomach. My daughter buys my perfume for me, and alerts me to stores and departments not to enter. Not being able to smell has it’s pros and cons.


Linda October 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm

My sisters and I are some of those who suffer from scent sensitivity. Of the 3 of us, I am the one stuck in an office. Unfortunately, I have had no help getting people to reduce the amount of cologne or perfume they use. So, I sit and suffer, taking something for the headache hoping that it doesn’t become a full-blown migraine. I can also become asthmatic and carry my trusty inhaler. However, nothing can help if the scent is so strong that I become drowsy. Then I have to leave work and sleep. Then, it’s viewed as my taking off too much work or being sick too much.


Joan October 14, 2015 at 6:37 pm

I am so happy to see this comment because I have a friend that wears so much that it gets to the door before she does….and it is so heavy it lingers long after she is gone. Thanks for posting your comments! So glad to find I am not the only one!!


SK October 15, 2015 at 12:00 pm

After doing research on the chemicals in fragrance, I learned they use more chemicals to make these odors linger in the air longer.
I tell everyone to imagine walking into a room filled with smoke.
That’s what it’s like for scentsitive people, only perfume is invisible.
And, like Linda, I can get an instant migraine or asthma–you can die from asthma!


Melody October 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I suspect I might be the one who slathers perfume and inadvertently offends. I love perfume and don’t MEAN to offend, but if I’m used to the smell I might be desensitized. Don’t drop snarky comments in my vicinity and hope I’ll take the hint, because that just makes you come off badly and you’ll be ignored. Just tell me honestly about your issue. Please don’t keep apologizing and explaining. You’re trying to be nice, but I’m already embarrassed, and you might be making it worse. Just be polite and clear. Don’t claim an allergy if you don’t really have one, because that’s quite unnecessary. And if you tolerate others just fine, I’ll notice. I appreciate you telling me about your needs before you build up a full head of frustrated steam over it, too. You don’t have to get mad in order to make the request, and I certainly don’t want to be the cause of built-up resentment.


Rita October 17, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Melody, I have a sever reaction to most perfumes and scents. There are, however, some scents out there that do not trigger my asthma. When folks wear those, I don’t say anything, because I’m not bothered by that particular scent. If I were to ask you about a particular scent, it’s because not every scent causes me problems. I wouldn’t want anyone to think I “tolerated” some people wearing perfume, but complained about others. It’s strictly on a basis of whether or not I can breathe while standing next to you.


kate May 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

‘Don’t drop snarky comments in my vicinity and hope I’ll take the hint, because that just makes you come off badly and you’ll be ignored. Just tell me honestly about your issue. ‘

It does, but you also come off badly by saying you are aware you are likely offending and desensitized and waiting for people to take the awkward step of telling you.

I’ll be blunt; these kind of complaints have skyrocketed in recent years.
So has wearing excessive perfume and not taking a break or toning it down when you think its possibly you have become desensitized. It used to be, for many people still is, plain courtesy to not overdo it.
And yes, everyone becomes used to heavy scent if they use it all the time; its called olfacaltory fatigue.
So here is my issue, honestly; it should not take people having a medical issue for you to be aware that wearing excessive perfume, especially in shared environments we have to be in all day, can be unpleasant for others.
Even if others don’t have a medical issue, they may just not like the smell. A workplace, or for that matter a train or restraunt, aren’t our personal living rooms. A social benchmark for fragrance used to be, that people can smell you if they are standing in arms reach of you; beyond that, it’s discourteous. A great many scents now range for metres and are concentrated so they linger badly in a room, or on any shared workdesks. If both products and hese social norms hadn’t changed, we wouldn’t be seeing an epidemic level of people developing serious health problems, and supervisors having these awkward consenversations more

You are aware you may use a lot, that is a start. But a professional adult in a workplace knowing that, addresses it themselves, they don’t wait for negative feedback.

Also; all the advice you give people – everyone I have worked with who has these issues has followed them and received rudeness in return. Additional to the extreme headaches and lost work, and being embarassed and stressed themselves having to raise it.

‘And if you tolerate others just fine, I’ll notice’

If you give a long list about others being polite to you, but aren’t realistic about offering that same courtesy in return, supervisors will notice . This statement means nothing as others could be using several different products to you, even if some are the same. Or spend less time working in the same area. Or use them less heavily.

You don’t know if a person has an allergy, HR will ask for doctors advice of this if it becomes necessary and if it is provided, that is what HR will work on.

Telling people you’d rather they say something before building up a head of steam, when you are waiting for negative feedback despite suspecting you might be the problem, is just hypocritical.
You’re being rude, while at pains to layout that you will be prepared to be reasonable.


SK October 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I am deathly allergic to scents. Not all, but most–usually the expensive ones with a lot of chemicals and animal derivitives in them. Depending on what type of perfume (and men’s cologne), I can either get an instant migraine, sneeze non-stop, have incessant coughing leading to asthma (the deadly part), throw-up, pass out, or any combination therin.
I didn’t have a problem in my workplace, but recently we hired someone from within whom I knew, in advance, wore a lot of perfume. I asked another female co-worker who would be working closely with her to ask her not to wear perfume if she was going to be working near me, since we would be in meetings together, behind closed doors. I told her if I would throw-up or pass out, it would be very embarrassing–for me and everyone else. Apparently this new co-worker got the message and doesn’t wear perfume anymore. Or, if she does, I can’t detect it.
Like the others here, I always blame myself and apologize but try to get the message across that it is very serious. Most people are willing to stop wearing or go lightly.
One of my friends, a waitress, passed out cold when the hostess she worked with wore a particularly strong perfume. My friend was rushed to a hospital and stayed there three days.
Perfume is not technically an allergen. It’s considered a sensitivity, and is scientifically in the same category (chemical fumes) as gas fumes, cigarette and fireplace smoke. Imagine walking into a room full of smoke. Your first instict would be to brush it away with your hands, hold your breath, then leave the room quickly. It’s the same with perfume. You can’t see it, but if you’re scent sensitive, it assaults you in the same way.
I have had to leave perfect seats in a movie, an auditorium, a lecture/music hall, and even church, to move to another location because someone sat next to me wearing perfume. It takes one hour to assimilate the chemicals into your system, if you can wait that long, but most of us can’t, especially if the application is heavy.
I have sweet and dear friends who have stopped wearing perfume altogether because of me. I even had one person thank me for asking her not to wear perfume because we were going on a long road trip together. She said she couldn’t tell what was making her cough so much. Turns out it was her perfume–and she works as a respiratory therapist!
I call myself the canary in a coal mine. I call myself a high-maintenance friend/co-worker. Ten percent of the population is sensitive to chemical scents. I hope the other ninety percent will feel it worthwhile to save us, the minority, from ill health and possible hospitalization.


SK October 22, 2015 at 4:29 pm

It’s 13% of the population now who are scentsitive.


Angie October 10, 2013 at 5:16 pm

I worked for a company that had no regard to people’s allergies and scoffed at the idea perfumes could cause throat constrictions. Even with a doctor’s note nothing changed. As others have said, some people just don’t get it or care.


Debra October 10, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Perfume is not just a matter of personal preference. I myself suffer from allergies to strong perfumes and had to request that the person who wore the strong scents refrain from doing so. I suffered severe, almost migraine, headaches for weeks before I was able to convince my superiors that my health was at risk. Since that time, this issue has come up more than once and because of allergies I have noted others speaking about bans on perfumes in offices. This runs along side of the peanut allergies, if you suffer from a life threatening allergy, everyone should be ameniable to your plight.


SK October 22, 2015 at 4:31 pm

There are migraine sufferers–and vertigo sufferers–here at work. They sit near the perfume wearers.
They haven’t put two and two together yet.
I have.


Treva October 10, 2013 at 4:50 pm

I think if it is approached the right way, an employee would not take offense. For instance, my boss has very bad allergies and I never knew she was allergic to my perfume until one day she politely spoke to me about it, profusely apologized, but just said that for some reason the fragrance I wear triggered her allergies. I did not take offense to it by any means and actually felt bad that she had gone all that time not telling me and was suffering every time I was in her office. So at first I stopped wearing perfume altogether and then I went to a much lighter scent which ended up not bothering her at all. She was able to breath and I was able to still wear a fragrance. Additionally, we are a small company, but it is in our policy that employees should be mindful of overpowering scents in the event someone has an allergy to them. I think the subject can be approached in a way that will not offend the employee, but just be mindful of the way it is presented to the employee.


Rita October 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

We have several employees who have documented sensitivities to chemicals, perfumes, scented lotions, etc., as well as an equal number of folks who just don’t get it (“my doctor says there’s no such thing as an allergy to perfume”). I try to get the name of that doctor, so I won’t accidentally visit the quack when in need of medical services.

The way I handle touchy situations like this is to assume responsibility for my own well-being. If someone’s perfume is overwhelming, I step back, place my hand over my nose/mouth, and apologize – – “I’m sorry, I have asthma, and something you’re wearing is causing an adverse reaction. Can we do this over the phone? I’ll call you as soon as you get to your desk.” If someone wearing strong perfume sits down next to me in a meeting, or the lunch room, I get up and move, with an apology, “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude, but I can’t breathe if I stay here.” I NEVER lay any blame on them (even those who are aware of the problem, and refuse to compromise). I always let them know that I don’t blame them (even if I do), but blame the asthma. After a while, most folks come to understand it’s not a joke, and allergies are not made up. Some will work with me, some won’t. But I remain professional at all times, and keep the apology or explanation brief. Fortunately, we have paid sick leave days, so if I have a really bad day, I just tell my boss, and leave. Visits to the hospital are no fun, and I refuse to let my problems get that out of control.


Joyce October 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

I worked in an office where the scent of a woman’s perfume consumed 1/2 of the office. No one liked it; everyone suffered and complained. I think the chemistry changed when hit her skin. I was on the other end of the office so it wasn’t as bad, but no one sitting closer wanted to say anything to her. I went to her one morning and apologized to begin with, and told her I how I suffered due to my allergies (true, but I didn’t have to work closely with her) and her perfume was a trigger. I asked if we could compromise, and she would wear less and I will walk an alternate route in the office when I could. Told her if we can work together she’d be a life saver, and I apologized some more. To my surprise she stopped wearing it completely, and I got her a goodie bag of her favorite chocolates so she’d know it didn’t go unnoticed. I was lucky, I’m sure not everyone would react the same way. TIP: If you can smell your own perfume, you have way too much on.


Mark October 10, 2013 at 4:18 pm

For many years we had a strict no-perfume or cologne policy because one employee would get sick (it would literally constrict her throat) if she was around someone with perfume. After she left, we eased up and said people could wear perfume or cologne, but only if it was a light scent. Everyone was told that if it caused a problem for any co-worker, they would have to lighten up on how much they wore. I would suggest your company develop a similar official policy, especially since you say this is affecting multiple co-workers rather than just one person.


BABS October 10, 2013 at 4:12 pm

It doesn’t give me a headache it makes me sick to my stomach. I filed a complaint with our facilities, who in turn sent my issue to our onsite nurse to come and speak to be to see what she could do for me to help with my sensitivity. Give me a break…Short of giving me a mask, that was it. Would be itnerested to hear how others handled this.


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