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Fragrance Migraines
ssshirley posted:
I am asking for help with a sensitivity to certain fragrances that trigger migraines. I was able to identify and eliminate all of my other triggers - foods I was eating and hormonal migraines tied to my monthly cycle. I am left with this one final trigger, and am looking for any solutions that may have helped others.

First, my migraine history...My mother has suffered with migraines from her mid-teens. Her migraines are gone, but unfortunately she now has Alzheimers. I am 47, and have had migraines for about 15 years. At first it was only 2-3 per year, so at that time I didn't seek help. Approx a year and a half ago they increased to 3-4 per month, always lasting 3 days, sometimes with aura, sometimes without, and sometimes just an aura, but not followed by migraine pain. I have been seeing a neurologist, who originally prescribed Topamax, which I could not take due to the severe side effects. My mother had success with propanalol, so I tried that as well. It really didn't help - only when I was able to identify and elminate triggers did the migraines begin to lessen in frequency. I actually stopped taking the propanalol and have not noticed any difference. I am still getting fragrance migraines, the same as I was before the propanalol, and while on it. I take Relpax when I feel a migraine coming on.

I have positively identified certain women's perfumes and certain plug-in-the-wall air fresheners as triggers. I don't know all of the perfumes, but do know for certain that anything by Avon will trigger an almost instant migraine, like within 5 minutes. Mens' colognes have not (yet?) triggered, but some of them make me feel kind of nauseous. I should note also that I have a super-sensitive sense of smell, always have, ever since I can remember.

My preference is to not use prescribed meds as a preventative, esp since I have narrowed my trigger down to just the fragrances. I have been doing alot of research on alternative preventatives, and have been using (daily) niacin, CoQ10, magnesium and just started B12. These have no effect on the fragrance migraines.

I saw my neuro this past Wed for a scheduled follow up, and after a long discussion with him about where I am with the migraines (basically everything I have described above), his answer was I could either wear a mask, or he could put me on Lamictal as a daily preventive. It is mostly used to treat bi-polar and prevent seizures. After reading up on the drug, there is no way I am taking that, yikes! It has some very serious side effects, and you have to wean yourself off of it or risk even worse side effects. Also, I am not sure that it would really help with the whole fragrance thing. I am also in the market for a new neuro, thank you very much!

I work in the admin dept (a seperate bldg) of a hospital-like facility. I have requested special accomodation thru the HR and Risk Mgmt Depts that our company go with a fragrance-free environment, but have had no success there. I am not the only one with fragrance sensitivity, however, I am the only one who gets migraines from it. The others suffer more of what I consider classic allergic reactions; sneezing, watery eyes, burning nose/throat, etc.

Someone I work with suggested an allergist - does anyone have any experience with that?

Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Thank you all
yukonok responded:
I have chronic (almost daily) migraines and perfumed products of any kind cause a HA almost immediately. I had to bring a memo from a physician that explained my need to avoid the trigger in order to avoid migraine. That was the only thing that persuaded my employer to give me a cubicle in the corner/away from co-workers who wear cologne. I have had to ask more people than you can imagine to not wear it when they work with me (explaining the medical reason and apologizing/explaining it has nothing to do with my like or dislike of a fragrance). I have backed out of more elevators, stairwells, offices, hallways, left movies, church and many other public places due to the inability to avoid perfumes...or the vapor trails they leave after the person wearing it has left the area! It's something that you can't "change" with some type of therapy. I went to an allergy clinic and had the discussion w/the specialist. He said it's how my brain is "wired" and the only thing I can to is to avoid the fragrances. Unfortunately, that means people can't over to my home and I'm at home alone when I'm not at work. Even when people don't wear actual perfume...if they're wearing perfumed deodorant, hairspray or have worn perfume at some other time with the sweater/jacket/coat they have on...I react to it, because the fragrance is there! I've undergone botox treatment for migraine (31 injections all over the head/neck) and it has made no difference in my reaction to perfumes (or smoke of any kind) and I'm still having daily migraines. I'm sorry I don't have good news from my just have to avoid perfumed products whenever possible and have rescue medication (I use Zomig) on you at all times.
carpetcrawler5 responded:
Next time you feel a mig coming on, drink some coffee or eat some chocolate.
carpetcrawler5 replied to yukonok's response:
My problem is cigarettes, especially in a crowd of people. I can't understand how anyone could smoke with the price they are now(8.50 per pack) when I was a teenager, they were only 49 cents.
ssshirley replied to carpetcrawler5's response:
thanks for the suggestion, but caffeine is just not strong enough when I am exposed to fragrances. If I am able to do it right away, Aleve and Niacin will help keep it low grade. If not and it becomes a full-blown migraine, I have to take an abortive. Right now that is Relpax. Abortives are the only thing that will stop the migraine, but they make me feel sick, so I have to take it and immediately lie down and force myself to sleep, that way I sleep thru the worst of the sick feeling.
thanks again
moneylady replied to yukonok's response:
I feel your pain. A neuro doc gave me this tip. It has kept me from becoming a hermit. I am now a mouthbreather anytime I'm around perfume. It's my new survival mode. It doesn't always work if the fragrances are heavy or if you stay around it to long. It will help you make a getaway and avoid a migraine most of the time. Breathing the chemicals in perfumes through your mouth can still get to the trigeminal nerve and cause a migraine. Mouthbreathing just gives you a way of escape. You will be able to smell even as you breath through the mouth it just prevents it from entering the brain.

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