Category Archives: Tip-sy Tuesday

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 1

As I mentioned previously, Susan McBride has sued the city of Detroit to have her co-workers banned from wearing perfume at work. Not surprisingly, this has drawn a lot of reaction from a lot of people. Just do a google search and you’ll find websites that post the article and allow their visitors to comment.

I was appalled, though not truly surprised, at some of the comments that I read. Over the next several posts, I would like to address some of these comments and provide a view from someone who suffers similar problems to those of Susan McBride. I’ll start with 3 that I found quite often.

1) “She must be a slacker or malingerer. Trying to get out of work.

This type of comment generally comes from someone who hasn’t read all the facts about the case. They just read the initial article, which, btw, came from a french news service. Digging a little deeper, you learn that Susan DID try to talk with the perfume-wearing co-worker. The co-worker agreed to turn off her “air freshener” but refused to stop wearing the perfume.

She’s not trying to get out of work, she’s fighting for her right to work. Sadly, people further think that she’s not really sick, it’s just an allergy. They’ll say “She doesn’t look sick”. As if there were some way she were supposed to look. And how would they know?

2) “Why doesn’t she just work from home?

There are so many problems associated with that suggestion. I know. The last 2 years I worked in corporate America, I worked from home. And it was an up hill battle to get that ‘privilege’ (as my “manager” called it). She preferred that I remain working in the office, with a migraine so bad I could not think, than to work from home and be productive. (She measured productivity by how many hours you were in the office and how much time you spent chatting her up about all the work you were doing.)

If you are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, it isn’t the marvelous treat some think it is. I hear it all the time. “You’re so lucky to be able to work from home.” Lucky, hardly. It seriuosly separates you from the rest of the office. Even with e-mail, there’s still “Out of sight, out of mind.” You aren’t considered for the top projects. You’re overlooked for bonuses and raises. It’s a very career-limiting move.

3) “Why should we have to do anything? She is the one with the disorder.

That has to top the list for insensitivity. Why should we do anything? For the same reason we put up wheel chair ramps, provide handicapped parking, put up important signs in Braille, etc. We all have to live on this planet. We all have disorders or afflictions of some sort or another, whether we admit them or not.

It’s not as if we’re asking people to not drink water or breathe air. We’re talking about perfume. A luxury. Something that you can live without. I have a friend who taught Nursing School. She said that years ago, they instructed nurses not to wear perfume. I also know people that work with the public and understand that their perfume doesn’t belong there. We need more people like that.

If you have to wear perfume, save it for your date. (Although you might want to make sure your date’s ok with it.)

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 2
Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 3

Seven Reasons YOU Should Be Concerned About Fragrances

  1. Using fewer fragranced products will help your fragrance-challenged friends. (You likely know some who suffer in silence.)
  2. It will help limit the VOCs in everyone’s drinking water.
  3. If all the groceries and restaurants quit using air fresheners, you wouldn’t be eating so many VOCs in your food.
  4. We’ll all breathe a little better – especially asthmatics and COPD sufferers.
  5. Fragrance products that contain VOCs trigger migraines in many people. Migraines are more than a headache, they are a neurological disorder. This means that VOCs ultimately impact the brain. What can it mean for children who’s bodies are still forming?
  6. According to a recent survey, 39% of men prefer a woman to smell like the clean smell of soap.
  7. A recent study has found that fetuses and babies are highly susceptible to chemical pollutants that can cause disease or disability.

What Is This Thing Called Migraine?

Do you know what a migraine is? Do you think you know?

Many people believe that a migraine is just a really bad headache. Which is wrong. In fact, the typical tension headache is caused by blood vessel constriction. With a migraine, the same blood vessels are dilated.

Many doctors define a migraine as having sharp, throbbing pain on one side of the head, with nauseau, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. They also think of them as more severe than a tension headache.

I cannot tell you how many times I have read and heard that definition from doctors! Even some of the “experts” on migraine cannot agree. I’ve seen more than one “expert” defintion that is similar the above. And perhaps that is why I had migraines for over 30 years before even knowing they were migraines.

Here’s an definition I found online:

A familial, recurrent syndrome characterized usually by unilateral head pain, accompanied by various focal disturbances of the nervous system, particularly in regard to visual phenomenon, such as scintillating scotomas. Classified as classic migraine, common migraine, cluster headache, hemiplegic migraine, ophthalmoplegic migraine, and ophthalmic migraine.

That was helpful, wasn’t it?

The reality is that you have to look at the totality of symptoms and their history in order to diagnose migraine. Migraines are not always one-sided. They are not always throbbing. They do not always cause nausea or vomiting. They are not always accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound. And further, there can be degrees of pain with a migraine.

Statistics say that some 28 million people in the United States suffer from migraine. And that’s just those that have been properly diagnosed. We’re called migraneurs – at least we have a nice-sounding name!

What else should you know about migraines? They are a neurological disease. A prolonged migraine can lead to stroke and even death. They often result in decreased productivity, inability to think clearly,

Treatment for migraines is quite different than for a tension headache. Often, OTC treatments won’t help a migraine. Furthermore, for some perverse reason, those that suffer with migraines (we’re called migraneurs – at least we have a nice name!) can also suffer from rebound headaches from many of the same medications that help a migraine.

So, what do you do if you think you may have a migraine?

  • Keep a diary of your head pain. Record where you were, what you were doing, time of day, etc. If you’re able to identify situations that seem to trigger the problem, try avoiding them.
  • By all means, seek help. A migraine isn’t just a headache and needs to be taken seriously.
  • Consult with your primary doctor.
  • If your primary doctor gives a definition as above and it doesn’t fit your symptoms, then see a neurologist. Keep looking until you find someone who really understands migraine.
  • Learn more. There are a number of sites, listed below, that can help you learn more about migraine. (There are others, too, but many of them are sponsored by drug companies who have their own agenda – selling you drugs.)

ACHE – American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education

American Headache Society
MAGNUM: The National Migraine Association

How To Tell Someone Their Perfume Smells Bad

I know this is Tip-sy Tuesday, but no, I don’t know how to tell someone their perfume smells bad. Someone went to Google, searched on that phrase, and found my blog.

And I could really sympathisize with that person. Many of us have needed to know exactly that. How do you tell someone that their perfume literally makes you sick.

There just isn’t an easy way. For many years, I thought that my problem was an allergy. And many people don’t really understand the difference there. Why not call it an allergy? Well, to get technical, an allergy is an immunological response to something – an allergen.

Unfortunately, some people interpret “I am allergic to your perfume” as “I don’t like your perfume”. Well that’s not what is meant. For example, I’m allergic to coconut. I happen to like coconut, a lot. I occasionally even have a craving for a Mounds bar. But I don’t give in to that craving because of my allergy. Another example, I’m allergic to cats. And I love cats! In fact, my cat is currently sleeping on my desk while I type this. That is an allergy that I have learned to deal with.

But perfumes and fragrances are another matter. In fact, rather than being an allergy, my reaction is a neurological reaction. Which explains why sometimes, with a migraine, I just can’t even think straight. And that can be very scary.

The reactions people have when I tell them that their perfume bothers me are strong. I once had a lady sit down next to me on a bus – she had the aisle seat. Immediately, I knew there would be a problem with her perfume. Her response? “I like this seat, I’m not moving.” And so, I got up and moved, although I was sorely tempted to remain and tell her that often my reaction included projectile vomiting!

I’ve also had people – even family – inform me that they have lost too many rights already, and that they have a right to wear their perfume. Sadly, between perfumes and air fresheners, this type of attitude has denied me my right to be out in public.

So, perhaps my tip today is more for the wearers of perfume. If someone tells you that your perfume bothers them, try to look at the world from their point of view. Do you have any idea how hard it is for us to tell someone that? We don’t make it up. We certainly don’t do it to attack you. It’ just a matter of our trying to survive in this world.

The next time someone lets you know that they react to your perfume, just say “I’m sorry, I’ll try not to wear it in your presence.” And then do it!

Top Ten Things You Can Do To Help Fragrance-Challenged

Here’s a few suggestions to help the people in your life that are fragrance-challenged. And believe that they are there, whether you know it or not. You’d be surprised how many people are silent about this health issue.

  1. A little goes a long way. If you must wear perfume, wear it subtly. It should be a light scent that is noticed after you’ve passed someone – not a cloud that precedes you.
  2. If you’re traveling in a car, leave the perfume off. It’s way too confined a space.
  3. Did you know that that fabric softener you use winds up sending perfume throughout your neighborhood. This can be a problem for many people.
  4. Look at your personal products and see just how many fragrances there are. Cut back on some of them.
  5. Shampoos may be rinsed out, but they still leave a lot of fragrance in your hair. Especially one whose name is the same as a bird used as a symbol for peace.
  6. Especially don’t wear a lot of fragrance at work. We all have to work, so help make it easier on others.
  7. If you have someone into your home that you know has a health problem because of fragrances, get rid of your “air fresheners” and scented candles. Turning them off or not using them just before your company arrives isn’t enough. Those chemicals are picked up by your air system and circulate for a long time.
  8. If someone tells you they have a problem with fragrances, take them seriously and do what you can to help them out.
  9. If they’ll be staying at your house, use fragrance free laundry detergent and dispense with the fabric softener and dryer sheets. It can take 20-30 washings to get those smells out, so just never let them get in.
  10. If you’re planning an extended visit with someone that is fragrance-challenged, leave your hair spray, perfume and any other aerosols at home.

Coping with Cooking Odors

One very unfortunate drawback of my fragrance sensitivity is that I have also become very sensitive to strong natural odors as well. Even, sadly, cooking odors.

Over the years, I had perfected my spaghetti sauce recipe. Technically, it’s a Marinara Sauce, but we call it spaghetti sauce since we mostly use it for spaghetti. I would make a HUGE, as in 24 cups or 6 quarts, batch. I start it early in the morning so it can simmer all day long. Next I divide it into 2 cup packages and freeze it in zippered plastic bags. Then, as we wanted it, we could take a bag out of the freezer, place it in water for maybe 30 minutes, and then we would have spaghetti sauce.

As you might guess, the entire house smells like my sauce by the end of the day. In December of 2003, I had already been working at home for about 6 months because of my health issues. One Monday morning, I got a batch of spaghetti sauce started before work. At that time, I was working upstairs, as far from the kitchen as you can be. But, by the end of the day, I had a really bad migraine. Curiously, it had NO impact on my ability to eat the spaghetti sauce.

For a while after that batch was gone, I was buying bottled spaghetti sauces. My husband was aghast because it is so not like me. I’ve always been a make-it-from-scratch girl. Alas, these sauces weren’t as good as mine; plus they had more sodium than my low sodium diet allows. Finally, we came up with a plan for making my sauce.

I start off in the usual fashion – sauteing the onions, garlic, etc. Then I add the rest of the ingredients except the bay leaves and bring the whole thing to a boil. Next I take my 2 crock pots, place Bay Leaves in the 2 pots and then divide the sauce between the 2 pots – stirring during the process so eveything is well mixed. At that point, we carry the crock pots out to the garage and let it cook all day. As an added precaution, I move my car out of the garage – don’t want the car smelling like spaghetti sauce.

We’ve done this several times now, and it seems to be a good plan.

To Market, To Market – On Monday Morning

My husband and I usually do our grocery shopping together, on the weekend. But this past Sunday, we made the mistake of heading out two hours before the Spurs playoff game. We couldn’t believe the traffic. Seems like everyone was scurrying about trying to run errands before the game. I said, “No problem. I’ll just go early in the morning.”

You have to understand that I no longer want to go to the grocery store. They have a lot of “air freshener” pumping through their system. I timed it once, I was in there only 12 minutes and came out reeking of their “air freshener”. It’s odd that a couple of years ago, I noticed they had a soap in their restrooms that was fragrance free. The label said it was good since it prevented the fragrance from transferring to the produce. Well, I guess they had to get rid of that soap when they brought in the “air freshener” machine!

My neurologist has remarked that she never notices the fragrances in the same places that I do notice them. And I’m sure there are many non-fragrance-challenged out there that will read this post, roll their eyes, and think I’m crazy. I know you’re out there. But, I’m not crazy. If you use mainstream products for your personal hygiene and laundry, then you’re already surrounded by fragrance everywhere you go. AND if you also wear fragrances, then you’re exposed to that much more. Your nose won’t register all the different odors after a while. Plus, you won’t notice that you picked up a NEW fragrance while shopping. But if you start out fragrance free, you’ll notice the difference.

So I have a Survival plan for my grocery trips:

  1. I’m now known to go to the grocery in the morning BEFORE my morning shower. I know, it’s actually appalling to me as well. But I often find I have to change my clothes and wash my hair when I return, so why bother showering before?
  2. I have a list and I pretty much stick too it. Gone are the days when I browse the store and notice the new products.
  3. I’ve taken to wearing my Wein MiniMate as well. It really does help, and if things get real bad, you can hold it close to your face and breathe it directly.

So I figured Monday morning would be good. It’s not a time when a lot of people are grocery shopping. But, what I didn’t count on was that the stores know this. And they do things like stocking and cleaning. Stocking is really no big deal, but cleaning was this morning. Did you know that there are gasoline (or maybe diesel?) powered floor buffers. Emitting all those same exhaust smells as if you’re driving down the highway. Which, for me, are now as bad for me as the fragrances. I was unfortunate enough to have it go up and back down a couple of aisles that I was on. I finally had to re-route my shopping so I could avoid.

I mostly survived that trip. At least I was in and out quickly. But maybe Monday morning isn’t the best time after all.

Travel Tips Update

This week, I thought I would post an update to my previous traveling post. We’re back from our trip and it was fairly successful.

My care package arrived ahead of me so that I had all my own personal products on hand. No searching for all those items while on vacation. I had plenty of zippered plastic bags with me to put things in for the trip back – since you can’t carry them on an airplane. The zippered bags were definitely needed as they contained the inevitable leaks caused by the non-pressurized space for luggage.

Our hotel worked out OK, though it could have been better. The potpourri was very pervasive throughout the hotel. Although not so much in our room. There was a perfumey odor on the linens in our bed. We borrowed pillows & cases from my step-daughter and that made it tolerable. A week before our trip, I had sent a letter to the hotel listing my requests. I received an e-mail reply stating that they would instruct the Housekeeping Dept. to stay out of our room. Well, that turned out to not be such a good idea – the trash piled up, the towels were damp, we ran out of coffee. We finally reached an agreement where they would come in and do a minimal amount of cleaning.

We didn’t really use the Zeolite for odor absorption. The car was okay without anything – meaning it hadn’t been smoked in recently, if at all, and it had no perfume smell. At home, I’ve banished all my husband’s dry cleaned clothing to one closet. I’m putting the Zeolite in there to see if it helps.

We also didn’t need to test out the Wein AutoMate. It plugs into the car and helps to clear the air. I can tell you that it does work. We have one in both cars and use it often. It takes care of the car exhaust and cigarette smoke that get into your car. It also helps when a friend or family member that uses perfumed products gets into your car.

The Wein MiniMate was worth all of the pennies (quite a few) that it cost me. On our plane rides to California, I used it the entire time. I had zero migraine. A first on a plane in some time! I also used it whenever we were in the hotel common areas or elevator. It definitely helped. On the return trip, I had forgotten to put a battery in my carry on bag and the battery died. The trip wasn’t quite as good migraine-wise. But still better than in the past. Some of that can be attributed to the medication from my neurologist.

That’s my report. If you have any tips or ideas to add, leave a comment.

A couple of websites

Here are a couple of sites that may be of interest to you if you have problems with fragrances or other chemicals in our air. You might also point the nay-sayers in your life to them. (You know the ones, they tend to not want to hear what you have to say. Lest they learn too much about what’s bad in the cosmetics and fragrances they use.)

First is a PBS report titled “Trade Secrets.” It addresses toxic chemicals found throughout our environment. The report tells about the ways in which our right to know has been compromised. It brings up the issue of trade secrets which prevent us from knowing what is in fragrances and cosmetics. Be sure to check out “The Options.” The section under Options titled “Protecting Yourself” provides information, room by room, about the chemicals present in your home.

Follow this link to get to PBS: Trade Secrets.

Another good site is part of the FDA. It’s a site totally related to Cosmetics. It provides information on what the FDA regulates, and what it cannot. There’s lot of good information here. For an eye-opener, try the True/False Quiz. You’ll get feedback after each question and could learn something new.

Travel for the Fragrance-Challenged

I’ve never done well with air travel. I often wind up from a migraine – between the jet fuel, everyone’s perfume and the notorious air quality in airplane cabins. Plus, the last time I stayed in a motel, I got very little sleep because of the fragranced chemicals used in the room.

When I travel, I have to take everything with me – shampoo, soap, all of it. I’ve always carried it on the plane with me, because I couldn’t afford for the bag to get lost, delayed, or picked up by someone else. But now, with the current state of air travel, I can’t be sure that I will be allowed to carry it all with me – even if it would fit in a 1 quart zip lock bag. Buying them at my destination isn’t an option because they aren’t readily available at your average grocery. Where I’m going in California, I would have to drive to either LA or San Diego to find a Whole Foods!

Usually, my choice is not to travel. But my step-daughter gets married next week in California, and I would not miss it for the world. So after a lot of discussions and internet searching, here is my plan:

  1. I am preparing a “care package” that I will send to my step-daughter. It will contain all the personal products I need. I should know before I leave that it got there ok. Going home’s not a problem, because I will have spares at home.
  2. When I made our hotel reservations, I discussed my problem with them. They have said they will make what accomodations they can. But they admit to having potpourri in the common areas. I’ve asked them to not use aerosols (as much as possible), to remove the bedspread and other dry-cleaned items. Also no furniture polish. I’ve also requested a room with windows that open, and that they be opened in advance of our arrival. My step-daughter, bless her heart, has checked out the place and given it an “ok”.
  3. We’ll be borrowing blankets – also sheets, towels and pillows if necessary.
  4. I also found an item called Zeolite. It comes in a bag and is supposed to absorb odors. The bags were relatively cheap, so I have two – one for the hotel and one for the rental car.
  5. For the rental car, my husband wanted to get one that had no sprayed air freshener and had never been smoked in. I told him Good Luck. I’ve also gotten the Wein AutoMate. It plugs into a cigarette lighter and is supposed to help clear the air in a car. Other people swear by it.
  6. I’ve also bought the Wein MiniMate. It hangs around the neck and acts as a personal air purifier. I’ve already tried it out a couple of times, it does help. I’m still checking w/ TSA to make sure they’ll let me take it on the plane.

How I long for the simple days when I just hopped on the plane without thinking about it. I’ve worked on these plans for quite a while now. Will let you know later if it actually worked.