Health Conditions Effected by Fragrances



Allergic diseases effect more than 20% of the population and are the 6th leading cause of chronic disease. (1) Asthma, rhinitis, and sinusitis are all allergic diseases and impact the functioning of millions of Americans on a daily basis. The impact can be from minor irritation to life threatening. But for many, allergies are a major factor in their daily lives and effect the most basic aspects of their life. In general an allergic response occurs when the body perceives a relatively harmless substance as a threat. Inflammation and mucus production occurs to help fight the substance. This inflammation and mucus production causes the typical allergy symptoms of watery eyes, runny nose, and swelling of the mucus membranes. More serious allergic reactions can cause hives, swelling of the throat, inflammation, and bronchoconstriction in the lungs. Very severe allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis and death.

Irritant reactions often cause the same symptoms as allergic ones. It is often difficult to tell if the basis of a problem is allergy or irritant. The problem may be a combination of both. Irritants will cause problems for anyone, though they effect some at lower levels than others. Why some people have a lower tolerance for irritants than others is not known. Irritants found in ambient air can cause problems for some, while others are seemingly unaffected. Rhinitis, sinusitis, and asthma can result from irritant reactions as well as allergic ones. TOP


Rhinitis: Inflamation of the nasal passages causing stuffiness and runny nose. Often accompanied by watery and red eyes. Rhinitis is usually caused by an allergic, irritant, or infectious process.

The nose and nasal cavity is the entry point for air into the body. Air is mositurized, warmed, and filtered as it moves through the passages.

Allergic Rhinitis

Allergies that effect the nasal passages are common. It is difficult for those that do not suffer to understand that these allergies cause much more than a runny nose and sneezing. While these allergies are generally not life threatening, they do effect quality of life and can lead to more serious problems. In a study done by the pharmaceutical company Glaxo Wellcome Inc it was found that allergies greatly effected activities at home, work, and in social situations. (2) While over two thirds of those having allergic episodes continue to function in their jobs and daily lives, they do not feel well and often curtail activities because of their allergies.

Allergic rhinitis is treated by environmental controls to reduce exposure to allergens and medication. Antihistamines and decongestants are usually prescribed. "Allergy shots" may be helpful is some cases.


Non-Allergic Rhinitis:

There are several types of non-allergic rhinitis. One type is triggered by environmental exposures. The exact cause of vasomotor rhinitis is not known, but it is often aggravated by fumes, odors, smoke, other environmental irritants and changes. This type of rhinitis usually occurs in adults and is not seasonal. The symptoms are congestion and headaches. Decongestants and topical steroids can help with some of the symptoms, but generally do not give complete relief. (3)

Whether the cause of rhinitis is allergic or vasomotor fragranced products encountered in the workplace can contribute to and exacerbate the symptoms. No matter what the cause of the rhinitis fragrances can further irritate swollen airway passages. In the case of vasomotor rhinitis they can be the primary trigger. Rhinitis in itself is troubling and greatly impacts health and well being. It can lead to more serious health problems. TOP


SINUSITIS: Inflamation of the sinuses causing stuffiness, headaches and facial pain, general malaise, and may involve fever. Sinusitis is usually precipitated by an allergic, irritant, or infectious process.

The sinuses are cavities or air spaces in the skull and facial bones. These cavities are lined with mucus membranes. The sinuses warm and moisturize the air as well as help filter and remove foreign matter. The sinuses produce mucus which helps keep them moist and wash out particles and bacteria. This fluid drains through small openings in the nasal cavity. When the sinuses become inflamed either from allergies, infections, or irritation the passages can become blocked. Once blocked, fluid builds up in the closed cavities causing pain. The pockets of fluid provide a ideal growing environment for bacterial growth. Sinusitis can be acute or chronic.


Acute sinusitis usually occurs after an allergic, irritant, or infectionous episode. There is usually localized pain and/or tenderness over the affected sinuses. Stuffy or runny nose is common. Post nasal drip may also occur which triggers a cough, usually worse at night. The infection may be accompanied by fever.

Acute sinusitis is treated with antibiotics and decongestants. Antihistamines are not usually used as they tend to dry up the secretions and make them sticky. It is then hard for the sticky mucus to be cleared from the sinuses.


Chronic sinusitis occurs when the sinuses remain infected for long periods of time or reoccurs numerous times during the year. The symptoms are not as intense as acute sinusitis, but the long term effects can be serious. Any chronic infection can cause general malaise and loss of energy. A chronic infection in the sinuses can cause bone erosion and numerous problems which can be very serious. Pressure can effect the optic nerve and cause permanent vision loss. The infection can spread to the lower respiratory tract and cause infections in the lungs.

Chronic sinusitis can occur when an acute infection does not completely clear up. It can also be the results of continued exposure to an allergen or irritant. TOP


ASTHMA: Chacterized by hyperresponsive airways, bronchoconstriction, mucus production, and inflammation. Asthma can be triggered by allergic and irritant factors. Though treatment is generally the same there are diagnostic differences in the types of asthma..


Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome is asthma that meets certain criteria. There is no pre-existing asthma and onset is within 24 hours of a high level irritant exposure.


Occupational asthma is caused by an allergen or sensitization to a chemical encountered in the workplace. Pre-existing asthma excerbated by occupational exposures is generally not considered occupational asthma.


Triggered by allergens such as pollen, mites, and dander.


No apparent allergic component, triggered by irritants. TOP


















  1. The signs of sinusitis. Discover; March 1998 (v19 n3) Start Page: pS1(2) ISSN: 0274-752
  2. Symptoms affect more than the nose. USA Today (Magazine); (v126 n2633) Start Page: p11(1) ISSN: 0161-7389
  3. Allergic rhinitis and nonallergic rhinitis. (Pamphlet) American Academy of Allergy and Immunology; Start Page: p1(2)