Smell Sensitivities – Olfactory Hypersensitivity
For those with Central Sensitivity Syndromes it’s not just light, sound, and touch that can yield severe side effects. It’s also smell. These smells can be fragrances, fumes, smoke, and even body odor. In this post I’ll address indoor symptoms and solutions as well as symptoms and solutions for outside of the home. For those with mild to moderate olfactory (smell) sensitivities, these solutions may end your issues. But, for those with severe olfactory (smell) hypersensitivity, these are habitual (all of the time) measures you should always take to lessen symptoms, prevent worst case scenarios, or find little freedoms where there once was not.
In The Home
HEPA Air Purifier
The first thing I recommend as far as help inside the home is a HEPA Air Purifier with or without odor control. Considering that those with CSS often also suffer from allergies, this is an absolute must. For me, it’s the difference between bad allergies and no symptoms, and having a canine companion and not. I also have dust allergies, and even though I can keep up with house work for the most part, it’s just never enough.
I recommend and personally use the Honeywell AirGenius5. They are actually on sale for nearly half the price too (gotta love those holiday sales). It’s awesome because it has washable filters you do not have to replace (which can get pricey in the long run). It hs several setting including one for allergies #4, and Max #5. Before the AirGenius when the light shined through the window just right all I could see was solid dust and dander floating in the air.
Now? Crystal clear air and a wonderful reduction in my allergy symptoms. I have one AirGenius for downstairs that I often put in my bedroom to keep the dust minimal in there, too. However, if you have the funds, I strongly recommend getting one for each of the rooms you spend the most time in. This air purifier also has an optional odor filer (which does have to be replaced) for odors, fumes and smoke. I haven’t tried it out yet…because any odor in my place was wiped out without it. Yes, it’s just that darn good at its job!
Also, make sure you regularly replace the air filter for your heater/AC unit, this is a BIG help. And remember your vacuum has a filter that needs to be cleaned often as well, 1 or more. So don’t forget or you’ll just end up putting more dust into the air.
You’ll want to ditch fragrances and fumes all together. No perfumes, colognes, air fresheners, and switch to laundry detergents that are dye and fragrance free and soaps and shampoos/conditioners that are fragrance-free or that have a very mild scent. You will also want to replace cleaning products with more natural ones, like vinegar and baking soda.
Reduce Other Sensitivities
If you can reduce just one of your sensitives, you’re other sensitives may follow suit. Whether its dimming the lights, finding the right medications or treatments for pain, getting a softer bed or couch, living a quieter life, or shedding some pounds – the best way to reduce smell sensitives is to reduce another sensitivities.
Out of Home
There are far more things you can do in the home than out of the home, because in the home you have control over your environment. However, outside the home is chaos and much is out of your control. However, there are quite a few things you can do.
Charcoal-activated paper masks, which you can buy in bulk for cheap, aren’t long term solutions, but rather a quick solution when you are in a situation you cannot immediately retreat from. For instance, standing in line at the grocery store to check out. Most will assume you have allergies, some people won’t even notice at all. They will help temporarily with fragrances and perfumes, but will not be as effective with smoke and really strong fumes. I always keep one in my purse for emergencies. Also recommended when using cleaning products with fumes.
Use Recirculated Air in the Car
The re-circulation button for me is an absolute must. I hit that button before I put my car in drive every time. It prevents outside smells and car exhaust fumes from getting into the car. One rare occasions you may get a whiff if there is a super strong smell out there, but not enough to send you into a tailspin. Car fumes can hit really fast and really hard, making it impossible to drive suddenly when you’re going 50 mph, so avoid, avoid, avoid by using recirculated air.
Avoid Congested Public Places
It’s one thing to get a whiff of one person’s perfume, it’s another if it’s a large crowd. These are situations where you very likely will pass out. If you must go to a public place, try to stick to places outdoors, that are indoor but well ventilated, or stick to the sides of the room/building rather than walking or sitting with the crowd.
Know the Way Out
Just like a person who always has to pee always knows where the bathroom is where ever they go, you should always know where the exits are. That way, when the fumes hit you and you become dazed and confused, you already know exactly where to run.
Know When It’s Too Much
Symptoms can come on gradually or quick. Be mindful and in the moment to make sure you see the worst of the symptom coming long before they do. This will help you gauge how long you can remain and how fast you need to escape. Early symptoms are dizziness, lightheadedness, faintness, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, headache, and nausea. Don’t let it get out of hand. If you start feeling sick from a smell, do what you need to do and vacate.
Use Mobile Services & Pickup Options
There are a lot more mobile services and pickup options than you may think. For example mobile mechanics to prevent a long wait in a very smelly auto repair place, and even mobile veterinarians if allergies and smells are a big deal for you. There’s also delivery and pick up options for a number of stores, including many grocery stores, that will help you prevent unnecessary exposure. If they have a drive thru, USE IT!
If you have a close group of friends, asking them to not wear perfumes or to smoke around you may be a realistic option. But when it’s a more diverse group of people, known and unknown, taking your indoor socialization outdoors can not only be far better for your smell sensitives, but also more fun and better for your health.
Get outdoors, go for walks with friends, go to outdoor sporting events, watch a movie in the park, attend a bonfire on the beach, or go hiking with a group, boating or kayaking. Just get out there and enjoy the fresh air. No outdoorsy friends? Spend more time with family outdoors or take your pets! You’re bound to make outdoorsy friends once you’re out there and keep getting out there. In too much pain? Too tied for all of that? Go and sit under a tree at the park, or go on a brisk walk on a trail for some endorphins. Everyone is different, you just need to find what’s right for you.
The Bad Breath Issue
Last but not least, there’s the body odor and bad breath issue. While there’s no fix for the BO issue except hightailing it out of there or maybe wearing a charcoal-activated mask, many make the mistake of offering their friends with the strong breath mints or gum. This often just masks the smell a bit and smell-wise can even make it more nauseating. Instead, offer them a glass or bottle of water. Water reduces the concentration of their saliva and the bacteria in their mouths causing and holding onto that smell. AND, it’s a way to reduce or end the issue without mentioning their bad breath!
Hope these solutions help you gain a little more freedom in your life and reduce some of you more annoying smell-related symptoms. Good luck! 😀