Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Alright, who is wearing the perfume?!

Alright, who is Wearing the Perfume?!

I’m sitting at Daughter’s high school graduation being held at the event center of a local university.

We are an hour early so we can get good seats (I’m very short – so I have learned to sit near the front, on an aisle seat so I can pivot around anyone tall that sits in front of me.)

And someone near me is wearing perfume. Sweet, stinky perfume.

Perfume is one of my asthma triggers now. It didn’t use to be. I’ve worn perfume all my life and didn’t have a problem until 3 years ago. That’s one of the annoying things about asthma – you can develop a new asthma trigger at anytime.

The problem with big crowds (graduations, choir concerts, dance recitals, etc) is that there is bound to be someone wearing perfume. And I’m usually fine until someone sits near me and I catch a whiff of their perfume.

So, here we go again…

First the twitchy throat, then the tight chest and then the cough. And I have 2 hours of graduation to sit through – plus family photos.

It’s so frustrating that something that someone else has done (sprayed on a lot of perfume) is making me have an asthma attack. In fact, asthma is the only disease I know of where ‘what other people do can make me have any asthma attack.’

The only thing that is saving me right now is that the event center has the air conditioning cranked up. With so many families here to see their student graduate, it could get uncomfortably hot in here. So, I am still getting whiffs of perfume, but then a breeze come along to blow it away from me.

Sitting on the aisle also allows me to pivot away from everyone else around me and put my back towards the perfume.

But even that isn’t enough. I just used my inhaler and spacer – yep, right out there in the open on the aisle seat.

Do I care? Nope. I have to breathe and would rather use it now when I’m starting to have problems rather than “waiting to see how bad it gets.” I’ll just use my inhaler so I can focus on the graduation.

Sometimes, my lungs might be a little twitchy, but I don’t need my inhaler. Today I’m going to use it to prevent it from getting worse inside this event center.

Ah, I can hear them playing “Pomp and Circumstance” – which means its time to get the camera ready!

I suddenly have watery eyes as I see Daughter head toward the stage to get her diploma. Must be allergies, right?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • TammieH
    6 months ago

    This is spot on. I work in a hospital and I get exposed to perfumes and such multiple times a day. Nurses and staff seem to bathe in this stuff even though it’s against policy. They’ll spray room sprays behind and watch you go into an attack. They don’t realize that the inflammation lasts for days and it adds up. I even had a nurse comes up to me and tells me that she while she knows that I have perfume triggered asthma she wants to know if this “essential oil” bothers me as she starts to open the bottle. Really?! While she knows that I suffer greatly, she’s going to try it again because the MLM people have told her that it’s impossible to react to this stuff. I’ve never noped out of a situation so fast! Please stop with this stuff. You don’t need to smell up the place. You don’t need to smell like Macy’s.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    6 months ago

    Hi TammieH and thanks for joining in on the conversation. Your experiences seem similar to many of our members who have posted their own personal anecdotes. It is still difficult to understand people who insist on doing this repeatedly in front of the very people who have serious issues with it. We appreciate your input here. Leon (site moderator)

  • sue1941
    1 year ago

    Thanks for this article, Andrea. It’s comforting to know someone else also has this problem – although I’m sorry you do. Perfumes, after shave lotions, soaps – some, but not all, affect me badly, too. Why some do but others don’t, who knows? Thanks heavens for my rescue inhaler and spacer, which I also now use publicly without apology. Wouldn’t it be nice if people would notice that and maybe ask themselves if some cosmetic they’re using could be causing another person to have breathing problems? We can hope!

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    1 year ago

    I feel for you! I’m not sure if people don’t realize how strong their perfumes and scented lotions are? If I can still smell someone’s perfume on an empty elevator after they have left – that it TOO much! Sigh.

    Even my kids complain when they could smell the perfume from a lady at the store – aisle, after aisle, after aisle. We could tell where she had been!

    Thank heavens for rescue inhalers!

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi sue1941 – you’ll find we have an entire online community who understands what you’re going through and how you’re feeling. Please know you are always welcome here! All the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • Valerie1126
    1 year ago

    This whole perfume thing is annoying. I’ve been allergic to perfume for 8 years and in these past few months it’s gotten really bad, bad enough that it brought me an ED visit and admission. It’s nuts. I’m glad you were able to enjoy your daughter’s graduation. Congratulations!

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    1 year ago

    It is annoying. I have a colleague who doesn’t have asthma, but complains about people and their strong perfume. She always says, “You don’t have to bathe in it people!” And “If you are that stinky, take a bath people!”

    A little perfume really can go a LONG ways!

  • mpalicka
    1 year ago

    100% agree. I have severe asthma, and I work as a nurse at a very well-known hospital. I was just recovering from a flare up, and I was on my way in to work when I was spotted by a patient’s wife in the hospital cafeteria. She introduced my to her mother, who smelled very strongly of lavender. This is a huge trigger for me, and at the first whiff, I could feel my chest start to get tight. I couldn’t be rude, so we talked for a few minutes. I thought I would be able to part ways with them, but they were actually heading back to my floor, so we had to walk to and ride the elevator together. I was panicking, because I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t find my inhaler in my bag. I get to my floor and go to the break room and finally find my inhaler. But it doesn’t help. I keep a nebulizer in my locker, so I take a breathing treatment, and THAT doesn’t help. I’m wheezing, coughing, and sweating like crazy. A coworker asks if I’m okay as I try to do some deep breathing, and I shake my head. They called the rapid response team to come see me. Now, on top of being in the midst of an attack, I’m also embarrassed because I have a bunch of coworkers staring at me. The team does all their usual stuff, vital signs, labs, EKG and takes me to the ER. And now I’m mad because now I have to shell out $250 for an ER visit, and miss work and use PTO that was meant for my vacation.

    I guess my point is, this is a completely frustrating illness, because it can be triggered by so many things that you have zero control over. I can avoid a lot of my triggers, but what perfume someone wears is not for me to decide, but it most likely will directly impact my illness.

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    1 year ago

    Wow, what an experience! That is so frustrating. I can tell that you are careful and try to avoid people and situations. And to make matters worse – everyone gets to see an asthma attack first hand! (And the family was blissfully unaware of you struggling to breathe.) Add insult to injury – you lose PTO. I am careful with my PTO too because I chip away my hours when I’m not feeling well. I hope you are recovered (but I know how long our lungs can be cranky – especially when you have an attack that was that bad.) I feel for you! 🙁

  • WheezyMe
    1 year ago

    Hi Andrea,
    I see you there. Perfumes don’t irritate my airways but secondhand smoke definitely does. Each time I sit in a bus station or some other public area and see soneone holding a cigarette, I get up and leave immediately, and that is so frustrating! And sometimes the area is full of them. So I can guess how you felt that evening with the perfumes.

    And you are right about using the inhaler- there’s no reason to hide it. I really don’t care about others looking at mine.

    Congratulations for your daughter’s graduation! I’m sure you’re proud!

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    1 year ago

    That’s so frustrating. It is hard to avoid our triggers out in public, and the people that are causing the problem usually have NO idea that they are affecting us 🙁

  • Poll