Piping hot pizza straight out of the oven…fresh-baked cinnamon rolls…honeysuckle in bloom…a large bouquet of red roses…what do all of these things have in common? They all delight your sense of smell. In fact, merely reading those descriptions probably brought those particular scents to your mind. If you close your eyes, can you imagine those smells?
Of course, not all descriptions bring pleasant smells to mind. How about sweaty feet, gym shoes, dead fish, and spoiled milk? Those words bring a whole different set of smells to your mind, and they're probably not things you want to smell in real life or even your imagination.
The sense of smell is so powerful that both good and bad smells can have negative effects in certain situations. Do you know anyone who can't be around perfumes and colognes? There are many people who will develop severe headaches from smelling even pleasant scents, such as colognes and perfumes.
So why do certain scents cause headaches? Scientists believe a couple of different explanations may come into play. For example, in the case of strong odors, such as cologne and perfume, experts believe these odors, even if they're otherwise pleasant, may activate the nose's nerve cells that, in turn, stimulate the nerve system in the brain associated with head pain.
In the case of other strong odors, a person may be allergic to a chemical element creating the smell. Similarly, a person might have a fragrance sensitivity to certain odors that irritate the senses, causing allergy-like symptoms, including watering eyes, runny noses, and headaches.
Some experts estimate that as many as 30% of all people may have sensitivities to certain odors. For these people, a simple whiff of a perfume or chemical substance can trigger misery in the form of headaches and other allergy-like symptoms.
Fragrance sensitivities are on the rise, thanks to the numerous products available today that come in a wide variety of different scents. From air fresheners and laundry detergents to dishwasher detergents and fabric softeners, the air you breathe, the clothes you wear, and even the dishes you eat off of can smell like a citrus grove or a mountain breeze.
Even "unscented" products can contain chemicals that will trigger a bad headache as an allergic reaction. So what can you do if you suffer from fragrance sensitivity? The best way to prevent scent-related headaches is to avoid strong scents as much as possible.
Don't wear perfumes and stay away from those that do. When it's time to purchase household products, choose unscented products as much as possible. When using scented products, do so in a well-ventilated area, so that you can reduce your exposure as much as possible.
When all else fails and the headache comes, treat the symptom like you would any other headache. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can help alleviate headache symptoms. Removing the source of offending odors can also help to reduce the length and severity of scent-related headaches.