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Can certain scents cause an asthma attack?
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Can certain scents cause an asthma attack?

I am a 42 year old female who works in an office. I noticed about a year ago that perfume a certain young lady who works with me wore made me sick. I would get a very bad headache and have breathing difficulties. The breathing seems to be getting worse. She refuses to stop wearing this brand of perfume and now everytime she does I have to go home. I begin to feel like I'm trying to breathe through a straw and have to keep coughing and clearing my throat to get a good breath. I also have the same symptoms when I smell gain laundry detergent. I've noticed that only certain scents make me feel this way.....and the list is growing. My dad and my sister both have asthma. I carry a primatene mist inhaler with me just in case. I have an appointment with an asthma specialist on Monday, but I'm not sure if this is what I have since I haven't actually had an attack where I just couldn't breathe at all. I know most people have asthma as a child. Could it just be allergies?
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Avatar_m_tn
Yes and yes. It can be either irritation which can irritate, irritation which can trigger asthma or allergy. Can even be all 3. Irritation can also cause your vocal chords to tighten as they become irritated kind of like when you get something in your eye you feel the urge to close your eye lid. That will restrict breathing too.

My asthma is trigged by some perfumes that smell like a powder scent and fabric softener. My inhaler helps. I use an albuterol inhaler not eppi inhaler as the eppi one only lasts for a short time, even maybe just minutes. I think Promatene is an eppi type, using epinephrine to open your air ways. That's for like super emergencies. If it is epinephrine any relief is only for minutes I hear. Might ask for an albuterol. Just note that albuterols can take 4-10 minutes to work. So some people carry Promatene for sharp onset of asthma to keep breathing long enough for the albuterol to kick in.

But this is how it was explained to me, I'm no doctor and don't know if your inhaler is using epinephrine or albuterol.

If you are having these problems it is a good idea to see an asthma specialist that also deals with allergy. Allergy testing isn't a bad idea either.

I live with people that have things in the air that I am severely allergic to. It is hard. I'm sorry this person won't change their perfume. It's hard for people that have never felt this to understand and they choose not to believe that it is hurting you. Good luck at the doctors. I think they will be able to prescribe you something to get through it.
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Avatar_m_tn
The coughing and clearing my throat to get a good breath could be helped by a nasal spray called NasalCrom from your local food store or drug store. That very well could stop your throat from reacting to the fumes. Also a nebulizer solution called Sodium Cromolyn should do it too. Sometimes the nasal spray is easier since when you sniff it up it will drain down your throat on to the area around your vocal chords to stop some of that mucus that you might be choking on. The NasalCrom stuff is gentle and doesn't last too long because it is steroid free. You could just spray one nostril if your goal is to let it drop down your throat. I like to use less of what ever if I can so I can use more later if I need.

Sometimes if you have enough irritation to cause mucus, in me at least that will continue to swell triggering my asthma. If I go away from the fume and it gets better fast it was my vocal chords. If I go away from the fume and there is no improvement in my breathing then I know it's my asthma requiring my inhaler to restore breathing again.

The NasalCrom nasal spray if you sniff it up might help. Just use as directed on the box. If it is your sinus that is getting mucus then you might need to spray both sides as indicated. I only spray one for choking or both sides for sinus problems.

Talk to your doctor about this over the counter product. I love it. I don't react well to steroids because they dry me completely out.
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks for the info. It will be very helpful as to what I should ask when I see the doctor. I do believe he plans to do an allergy scratch test. You have described alot of symptoms I have. Sometimes I feel better after I go away from the scent and sometimes I don't. It does at times feel like alot of mucous in the back of my sinuses. Almost as if the smell made my sinuses react which in turn caused the fullness in my throat. Thank you for the helpful information. It is a shame that people who don't have these problems think it's all in our heads. My ENT prescribed me steroid nasal sprays and they dry me out too.
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Avatar_m_tn
I was one of those people that never understood many years ago. That was before my allergies got dangerously bad. So I can say people that don't understand can not relate because with out education they simply can't imagine it.

It would be like me telling you what it feels like to feel the moons gravity each time the moon passes over. (I don't feel it but it would be hard for you to believe me or imagine). That is how I think non allergic people think about allergies.

But I will tell you this. Even though I never understood I respected people if they told me something was hurting them. I had respect for everyone. So if someone said even that they didn't like the smell of a perfume (not allergy related) I'd stop using it when around them. Its just respect whether they understand what you feel or not. Some people are selfish. :( Being that it is a "health issue" you might be able to go to HR Dept at your work and request that they talk to this person to discontinue the perfume in the work place. I believe the health issue is a valid cause for this action.
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Avatar_f_tn
I never fully understood my allergies.  About 8 years ago I took an allergy test and was HIGHLY allergic to cats.  In later years, I found two kittens and kept them.  Huh, to think I was ok until my allergies became so bad, I ended up in the ER due to an asthma attack.

Am I the only one? Im in denial.  I keep trying to say I'm cured.  I keep trying to blame my stress and say it makes it hard for me to breath.  When I cough up mucus, I just blame it on something I ate, allergies, or just the start of a cold.  LOL  I know all of these make asthma worse.  I guess I just need to accept it, but a part of me still doesn't.  

Is there an easier way to cope with accepting you have asthma?  
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