Don't Let Fragrances Trigger Your Allergy Symptoms

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on November 30, 2022
2 min read

If you're like a lot of folks with allergies, you may want to stay away from strong fragrances. When you breathe in the scent from things like candles, soaps, laundry detergents, and even some tissues, it can trigger your hay fever symptoms. Before you know it, you may sneeze, cough, and get a stuffy, runny, or itchy nose. Headaches and rashes aren't out of the question, either.

For some people, these symptoms are caused by an allergic reaction to fragrances, which means their immune system -- the body's defense against germs -- overreacts. But for others, the problems start up because the scent irritates the airways directly.

Your doctor can't test for a reaction to a fragrance, so you have to do a bit of detective work to figure out what scent is causing your symptoms. Pay attention to the times when they seem to flare up. Were you around any strong smells?

Once you have an idea of the smell that triggers your problem, limit your contact with it and see if your symptoms get better.

Some other things you can try:

Buy unscented or fragrance-free. Keep in mind, though, that some products 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, of course, so always be polite. You can also move your desk or use a small fan.

Use natural cleaners. You can avoid strong scents if you make your own cleaner with ingredients like baking soda or white vinegar.

Ask your doctor about drugs to control symptoms. Some people get relief from decongestants or steroid nasal sprays.