Most people have no idea that scents such as perfume, cologne, essential oils, after shave, deodorant, scented detergents and dryer products, household cleaners, gift baskets, candles, sachets, etc. are triggers for many people that have migraines. It’s called osmophobia.
For a brief research overview on this, see Odorant substances that trigger headaches in migraine patients on the US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health website. The bottom line: 70% of the 200 people in the study were triggered into a migraine after 20 minutes of exposure!
I ask my clients to be scent-free at my office. Here are a few instances where I’ve run into trouble: bedding at hotels and AirBnbs; waiting in checkout lines at department stores (items near the registers are filled with scented products and I’ve had to abandon my items and leave the store); a mobile notary that came to our house recently for us to sign re-fi paperwork was wearing cologne; an optician where I get glasses, people in the pool at the YMCA, etc.
I understand that people like to wear scents. There might even be a piece of individual identity wrapped in the scent of your choice. It’s projected that by 2025 global fragrance sales will be over $52 billion dollars annually!
On the flip side, it is estimated that 38 million people in the US suffer from migraines, and it may be as high as 50 million. A Mayo Clinic research article states that, “the total cost of lost productive time due to any type of headache pain was $19.6 billion (in 2002 US dollars).
I’m not telling you what to do; I’m asking you to consider options. If you are in proximity to others who have nowhere else to go (e.g., a work setting, guests in your home, visiting others, etc.), you might want to ask if anyone among them gets migraines and whether scent is a trigger for them. If you’re in a position to inform policy, consider creating a scent-free environment. You could be saving someone from a world of hurt.
I’m paraphrasing Clint Eastwood here “Go ahead, make my day [better by skipping scents].”