Dashing through the malls...
With the holiday season coming up, most of us will probably be spending more time in the mall or shopping center than we really want to. And among the soft pretzels, popcorn, and maybe a good deal or two, these places can harbor some unexpected scenarios, and asthma triggers that either we forget it exists, try to forget it exists, try to avoid, or simply, try to ignore. Realistically, ignoring asthma triggers doesn’t quite work because as much as our brains can ignore stuff, our lungs really aren’t that selective!
My biggest frustration in malls is typically fragrances. The mall near my house used to have one isolated Body Shop that I always remembered and stuck to the opposite side of the corridor with few problems. However, not long ago, a Bath and Body Works store opened up and permeated a quarter of the mall with the smell of their products—which is not a good mix with asthma and headaches triggered by these sorts of chemical smells. Large department stores—you know the “anchor stores” I am talking about, often featuring a cosmetics counter right inside the main door. These cosmetics counters, while at least in my experience, have stopped approaching unsuspecting patrons with bottles of fragrance to attempt to spray them with, they still emanate a significant amount of usually not even nice smelling fragrance that can be terrible for those of us with asthma or people with migraines or other chemical sensitivities to deal with. Certain other stores, like some clothing stores (nudges Hollister clothing) also are very fragrant, beyond what is necessary for selling the few in-store fragrances that they do. In stores without fragrance departments, sometimes other shoppers are also difficult to deal with because let’s face it, they are not predictable! I also find nail salons almost to be a worse asthma trigger because of the acetone and other products than fragrance/body stores, and some hair salons are also a problem for me (one time, I actually left a salon because I had an instant headache, which still astounds me!).
Certain aisles in some stores also are things I need to avoid for the same reason. Typically the laundry detergent aisle is one that I avoid as much as possible, which often also includes the air fresheners (so at least they keep it in one spot!), as well as those that include candles. When things are isolated to one area, though, I find that it is much easier—especially if those aisles are labeled.
For ease of care, malls primarily have tile flooring, but sometimes, carpeting is present in some stores. Some stores may be vacuumed more often than others, but—like schools—I would predict that dust and molds are harbored in shopping centers as well.
Myself, I don’t have a ton of strategies for dealing with these sorts of triggers. I try to visit the mall when there are lower volumes of people—this is one perk of my employment, though: I don’t have to work at any specific time, so I can choose to visit the mall at 10 am when there are few people there. Google is a great source of information on this—search the place you wish to visit, and it will tell you when it is the least busy.
I also tend to walk really fast through the malls, giving me an edge on dodging any situations that I know will trigger my asthma (although it may constitute exercise and induce some exercise-induced symptoms ;).)
Really, shopping is sort of a necessary evil, at least when it comes to asthma. If you have any tips on how you make shopping centers more asthma friendly, share them in the comments!
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