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21 Things People Don't Realize You're Doing Because You're Sensitive to Scents

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While some might not think twice about spritzing on perfume or adding floral-scented fabric softener to their laundry, for others, catching even the faintest whiff of certain scents can have major repercussions.

Some may have a chronic illness like migraine or multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) that can be triggered by scents, causing a flare-up of symptoms.

Others may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and find that certain smells trigger memories of traumatic events they experienced.

There may also be folks who experience sensory issues, perhaps related to autism or sensory processing disorder, and perceive smells much more strongly than other people do.

Whatever your health situation, you may find yourself engaging in certain habits or behaviors because of your “scent-sitivity.” While some practices – like crinkling and covering your nose – tend to be more obvious, there may be several things you do that others don’t quite understand. That’s why we asked our Mighty community to share something people don’t realize they’re doing because they have a sensitivity to scents. If any of the following sound familiar, know you’re not alone.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. Holding my breath on the way through the perfume section.” – George L.
  2. I tuck my nose into my scarf or jacket. If someone asks what I’m doing, I say that my nose gets very cold… Which is also true!” – Yasmin B.
  3. Certain smells trigger flashbacks and awful panic attacks so I always wear perfume on my wrists so if I’m triggered I can smell my perfume, it helps ground me especially when people around me don’t understand what is happening.” – RJ S.
  4. Step away from someone I am talking to who uses strong smelling laundry products, self-care products, perfumes, cigarette smoke, etc. then get away from them ASAP.” – Elanie L.
  5. I have an essential oil diffuser necklace. I’ll put a drop or two of a scent I like that doesn’t bother me and whenever I smell something that could trigger me, I lift the necklace and just breathe in the scent I chose. It blocks the other scents and smells good. Plus it can also stave off my migraines and calm me depending on which oil I choose.” – Sharayah W.
  6. Avoiding gas stations when they are, or have just been, filling their tanks… that smell is a nearly instant trigger for a debilitating migraine for me… I also get strange looks when I am driving with my carbon filter mask on.” – Merri E.S.
  7. I have asked a store employee to get me something from the cleaning aisle because I can’t bear to go down that aisle. I have also ran to the product I needed, grabbed it, and ran out of that aisle ASAP.” – Sheila W.
  8. Eat peppermints like they’re going out of style.” – Nyci F.
  9. I put my hands by my mouth/nose kind of like the ‘thinking’ emoji. That way I’m smelling my hand lotion and not the smoke, Axe body spray, perfume, etc.” – Samantha S.
  10. I become very quiet and can’t focus because of the throbbing in my head.” – Jerica W.
  11. Opening the window in Uber/Lyft when it’s 7 degrees outside because the air fresheners are giving me a migraine.” – Paige W.
  12. Use only organically based laundry products, personal care products, cleaning products, etc.” – Elanie L.
  13. I have long hair so I tend to always grab it by the ponytail and put over my nose. I look ridiculous but I can always count on it to cancel out whatever I’m smelling.” – Lolo M.
  14. Crossing to the other side of the hallway in the mall when passing stores that sell bath products, candles, etc. or stores that use a lot of perfume such as Abercrombie or Hollister.” – Miryam A.
  15. Breathing through my mouth only. I may look like a fish but at least I don’t have to vomit.” – Andreas W.
  16. I will walk really quickly past anyone who is smoking cigarettes. Sometimes I cover my nose with my sleeve to filter the air. The smell makes me gag and gives me an instant headache.” – Jess N.
  17. I sit in the front pew at the corner of the church on Sunday mornings to avoid smelling people’s perfume and cologne.” – Lindsay R.
  18. In winter I wear a scarf and cover my nose when the smell is too much. In summer I keep a cloth hanky in my purse and hold it to my nose until I can get away from the scent.” – Sheila W.
  19. My mom and I both have to entirely avoid many places we would love to go – including family and friends’ homes. We both will get too sick from the chemicals and smells that seem overwhelming and present everywhere. And, she has to shower immediately after arriving home or she’ll get sick from lingering chemicals in her hair, skin and lungs.” – Tavia P.
  20. I mostly shop online because I can’t go in most stores due to fragrances.” – Sarah L.
  21. People don’t realize I’m not over-reacting by holding my breath and gagging. It’s because heavy or pungent smells trigger migraines.” – Clare A.


Originally published: December 5, 2018
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