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Nasal Allergy Trigger: Fragrances

Fragrances -- chemicals that create a scent in products like candles, soaps, laundry detergents, and even tissues -- are common triggers for people with nasal allergies. Breathing fragrances can trigger symptoms like:

  • Stuffy, runny, or itchy nose
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing

They may also cause headaches and rashes.

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Some people do have an actual allergic reaction to fragrances, meaning their immune system overreacts. But many people who react to fragrances aren't allergic. The fragrance sometimes irritates the airways directly.

Controlling Exposure to Fragrances

Your doctor can't test for a reaction to an irritant like a fragrance. So you have to figure out what fragrances are causing symptoms. Pay attention to times when they seem to flare up. Were you around any strong scents?

Once you have an idea of what's triggering your problem, limit your contact. See if your symptoms get better. Here are some other tips:

  • Buy unscented or fragrance-free. Note that things with a "natural fragrance" may still contain chemicals that trigger a reaction.
  • Avoid anything that lists "fragrance" on the label. Even things that don't have a smell may use fragrances to hide chemical odors.
  • Ask people around you not to wear strong perfumes or colognes. That may be tricky at work. Ask politely. Moving your desk or using a small fan may also help.
  • Use natural cleaners. Instead of strongly scented cleaners, make your own. Use natural ingredients, like baking soda or white vinegar.
  • Ask your doctor about drugs to control symptoms. Some people can get relief from decongestants or steroid nasal sprays to ease symptoms caused by fragrances.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 29, 2012

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