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Asthma, triggers, and social behavior
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oregonbrenda posted:
HI there,
I could use some tips. I am 43 and was diagnosed with RAD yesterday. The problems have been life-long but someone finally put a name to it. My triggers are cigarette smoke, chemical essence perfumes, and any cold goes the direction of massive coughing, difficulty breathing, larnyngitis, brochitis and twice, pheumonia (I got a pneumonia vaccination between the two bouts--oh well). I'm recovering from a cold now and hope and pray I have my voice back in two days when I am supposed to sing for Christmas at church (I'm their only 1st soprano and I'm singing lower than the guys right now)

As a kid I was berated, slapped, scolded, etc for "putting on a scene" when I was unable to breathe in a second-hand smoke environment. In adult life, when I explain to a smoker we need to switch places so he or she is downwind, I get disgusted looks and a lecture about holy-non-smoker people. In the past 4 years I've begun reacting dramatically to perfumes although the Lysol fragrance has sent me fleeing from the room as long as cigarette has. Perfume wearers have been even more unkind than many of the smokers I've had to say something to.

THe social rejection is tremendous when I request that a perfume wearing woman not give me a bear hug at church, or early in the service I have to get up and move because someone has just plunked down next to me who has obviously bathed in some eau-du-chemical-compound. I'm told I'm cold, I'm rude, and that I have no right to say anything. I'm a meek person, not a dramatic person...I'm very quiet if I have to make such a request. I realied people wear stuff to be "pretty." I've been told I'm making it all up by perfume wearers. I've actually had to leave my church and attend a different one and leave my weekly Bible study--because of women who asserted their rights to wear perfume as strong as they wanted. THe problem happens in the workplace too. There are times I have to work with my office door closed and twice had to completely leave the building because of other's perfumes and scented hand lotions. I've said something, but everyone just thinks I'm making it up for attention or something. In reality, I just like being able to breathe.

I've had problems on airplanes too---had to be reseated six times on one flight. When I contacted Southwest about it, they won't allow filtered breathing devices in the cabin. I've noticed not so many Southwest flyers wear perfumes, but Delta flyers sure do--including the flight attendants.

I'm becoming more and more reclusive and inadvertently drinking more too: I live in wine country and the wineries are the ONE place where wearing fragrances is a faux pas....you might mess with other people's ability to smell the wines. The wineries are about the only place I can go to socialize AND breathe.

How do you guys deal with this? Have any of you come up with a way to politely advise a triggering person that you have to stay away from them that gains care from the person rather than rudeness and ridicule?
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amcate responded:
I feel for you. I also left a church, not because of perfume, but because they couldn't understand me wearing a mask and needing to sit in the back row or an aisle seat so I could leave to take medicines as needed without disrupting the service. This is a common problem in the churches in my area, so I have no church to go to because they don't care to try to understand more severe asthma.

It is possible that what happened to you as a kid is affecting you emotionally now.

"Have any of you come up with a way to politely advise a triggering person that you have to stay away form them...?" It depends on the person I'm dealing with. Unfortunately, most people will not understand no matter how you approach it with them, and yes, I've ended up being isolated from that.

What I'm finding helpful more recently is to go to groups that state they are for people with invisible illnesses. I've begun to find some people who do try to understand because they know what it's like to have an invisible illness that others just don't get. It has helped formed a social network around me. One lady I met in such a group invited me over for Thanksgiving, and when she kept using cleaning sprays, she stopped, and even said we could move to their trailer instead. She was very understanding about it all.

I just had to experiment and switch the folks I hang out with to those that go to groups that aim to support people with invisible illness. I'm still waiting to see how it all goes.

By the way, when I flew Southwest, they did let me wear a surgical type of mask. However, I don't think that would filter out perfume. I don't have perfume as a trigger.


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