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Fragrance Allergies: A Sensory Assault

The use of fragrance in products is on the rise -- and so is the number of people affected by them. WebMD offers ways to protect yourself if you're sensitive to scents.

Fragrance Sensitivities: What You Can Do continued...

"If they bring it up as an awareness issue, without singling out one person, people will be better informed and hopefully will be more selective about what they wear in the work environment, Saab says.

Here are six more solutions offered by Saab and the Job Accommodation Network.

  1. Change workstation location. Either move away from the person whose fragrance you find offensive, or move away from a common area where people congregate, such as a foyer, break room, or restroom. Being in contact with fewer people will mean less exposure to fragrances overall, and that can help. 
  2. Telecommute at least a few days a week. The more time you can spend outside of the environment, the less potent your symptoms may be when you do have to be there.
  3. Modify your work schedule. Going in to work at 6 a.m., for example, usually means you will have less contact with co-workers. And leaving earlier in the day reduces the amount of time you will be exposed to the offending fragrances, which will give your body a better chance at recouping after exposures.
  4. Try an air purifier. But be aware that air cleaners and air purification units work less efficiently in a cubicle situation than in a private office where you can shut the door. Also be certain to choose a unit with an appropriate filter, such as gas or carbon. Simply using a system with dust filtration won't help alleviate odors.
  5. Use a portable fan. A small fan can blow stagnant air away and keep odors from lingering in your personal space.
  6. Develop alternate methods of communication. Work via email, phone, or fax as much as possible to limit contact with those whose fragrances you find offensive.

Slankard says you may also control some symptoms with a nonsedating over-the-counter allergy medicine. "You can also talk to an allergist or an environmental medicine specialist, who may be able to prescribe additional medications that can help," she says.

For more help: Visit the Job Accommodation Network web site at or call (800) 526-7234. To get help from the Americans With Disabilities Act, visit their web site at

Reviewed on January 11, 2008

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