Are people that are hypersensitive to perfumes also bothered by bad smells more?

There seems to exist people who are “hypersmellers”; they find perfumes and other scents overpowering. There was a thread on the SDMB some time ago on the stereotype about French people smelling bad, and it went on some interesting tangents, including how many Americans seem to associate a detergent smell on their body (scented soaps, lotions, deodorants, etc) as being “clean”. Posters chimed in talking about how they couldn’t stand a lot of scented products. It got me wondering:

If someone finds a soap or perfume smell so bad, do they find “unpleasant” smells (B.O. , poop, urine, vomit, etc) equally bad? For instance, my mom is only hypersensitive to ‘bad’ smells like body odor and such. Walking into the living room and smelling freshly-upchucked cat puke sends her scrambling to the bathroom gagging. But she doesn’t have this reaction to perfumy type smells. In fact she says the annoying thing about some guys who wear a ton of cologne isn’t even the cologne itself, it’s the fact that she can smell their rancid B.O. right through it.

I think the answer is no. My husband can’t take deep woodsy, oriental, or musky perfume or cologne. But floral or fruity is ok. He chokes if I burn any scented candles, but loves strong soaps and fabric softeners. I don’t have a problem with any of that. But he has asthma which may have something to do with it. His reaction to bad smells is no different than mine.

In my situation, I am very, very sensitive to any strong smells. I can build up a tolerance to some smells, like one perfume I can use (actually there are 2). However, any strong smell can drive me crazy.

My husband was folding clothes last night, and I knew right away he used a different detergent, even though he denied it.

I cannot even go into a store with special soaps and lotions. I would absolutely die if I ever went into a perfume store.

As for the smell of gross stuff, it all depends on what it is. Simple smells or aromas can trigger a migraine so massive, you would never believe the pain. However, some gross smells just have a vomit-inducing effect.

When I had little babies, I got used to the poop smell and puke smell pretty quick. Now, if someone had used fabric softener on the babies clothes, it could make me sick for days. I guess everyone is different.:frowning:

Just a weird FYI, I am not bothered at all by skunk smell. Lily flowers, on the other hand, are deadly to me. They can cause a massive migraine, and can be vomit-inducing as well.

I can tolerate sewer gas, dog farts, burning rubber etc. a lot more easily than I can tolerate many perfumes and nearly all product scents. Other than really strong rotting flesh, which I think would top most people’s lists, only roofing tar comes close to a floral perfume or the chemical ick of Tide or scented dryer sheets on my I-gotta-get-outta-here list.

So, no. I think they’re processed on different levels.

[QUOTE=delsina363;17371132 I am not bothered at all by skunk smell. [/QUOTE]

Hey, me too! I thought I was just strange that way but skunks don’t really stink to me. It’s a strong smell,but not a bad one.

Another weird thing is that pregnant women can sometimes become more sensitive to some smells. For me is was BBQ sauce and microwave popcorn. I was working at the time and was often nauseous throughout the day, not just morning. The microwaving of popcorn was so noxious I’d have to leave the building! And I could tell if folks in the next building had BBQ for lunch! I could smell it a mile away! 25 years later and micro popcorn turns me green. I had no problem with it before.

…and microwave popcorn is too close to roofing tar on my stink list to differentiate them. A good batch of extra buttery or cheese-flavored, and I have to leave the building. It isn’t even that it makes me vomitty-sick, just sick like a hard punch in the gut.

I’m in this camp. And it’s not so much toleration, but certain perfumes/colognes (especially when the person has worn too much), kick my allergic reaction into overdrive.

Thing is, I can still like the scent, but if it’s overbearing, I’ll need to get away or something.

I’m not allergic to any particular scent, but certain “chemically” fragrances are intensely unpleasant to me. These would include those air fresheners one can buy in the supermarket, cheap perfumes, and many ordinary cleaning products.* I don’t have any reason to think I’m more sensitive than anybody else to other smells.

The aversion to these smells may be related to the fact that I used to have fairly significant chemical sensitivities. These were brought on by an exposure incident and fortunately, after a number of years of scrupulous avoidance, have abated nicely. I think I’m probably still more sensitive to solvent smells than other people, but it no longer has any major impact on my life.

Maybe some of these “hypersmellers” have normal senses of smell, but have sensitivities mild enough that they only cause a feeling of aversion instead of a full-on sickness.

  • I had a strong aversion to the scent of Tide Pods as well as a few other minor problems with the product. I got a very nice reply which explained that the scent had been extensively tested, etc., but…well, it was phrased more nicely, but he basically said “it’s probably just you.” I appreciated the no-BS answer, and I’m sure he’s quite correct. I switched to the Costco brand which don’t bother me a bit.

You’re right, he probably is correct. Here is a link to an abstract of a study on PubMed that concludes, among other things that:Three studies tested individuals by using nose clips/face masks and confirmed response, possibly mediated through eye exposure. Three studies used olfactory masking agents to conceal stimuli, and none of these found associations between provocations and response. We conclude that persons with MCS do react to chemical challenges; however, these responses occur when they can discern differences between active and sham substances, suggesting that the mechanism of action is not specific to the chemical itself and might be related to expectations and prior beliefs.

That reminds me of an incident at my wife’s office where workers were warned that roofing repairs could cause exposure to tar fumes. Several employees went home with respiratory symptoms and or headaches, although inclement weather forced the repairs to be postponed and no exposure occurred.

So the reaction to these trigger smells is psychosomatic?

See I assumed if you’re hypersensitive to some perfume smell, you will be sensitive to other things of similar intensity. So in theory, an open bottle of whisky, rubbing alcohol on someone’s arm, or heavily seasoned foods would be as overpowering as some perfume on an co workers wrist. But it seems like people are conveniently selective in what they can and cannot stand.

People use the “supertaster” excuse for being picky eaters. But many folks that make this claim stick to heavily processed foods and in spite of their claims, are able to tolerate much more salt and sugar in their diet than they would care to admit.

I wonder if much more of this stuff is mental. My wife believes many hang ups like this are a kind of leaned helplessness- something smells/tastes gross to you, and you learn to chalk it up to “allergies” or some other factor beyond your control to avoid having to put the effort into learning to tolerate it. It’s less work to try to get others to conform to our neuroses vs dealing with them ourselves.

I don’t think I can “psychosomatic” myself into the sinus infections I get from many of these products.

Considering that the olfactory nerve is pretty much hardwired into the limbic system, I am pretty willing to give ‘psychosomatic’ responses a pass. Changing a response under those circumstances would be the equivalent of overcoming a strong phobia.

I am that guy. There is almost no fragrance or aroma mild enough that it won’t either give me a headache or cause choking spasms.

All my soaps and other personal hygiene products are fragrance-free and I steer clear of anyone doused in colognes, perfumes, or soaps with fragrances. And it is not only perfumes that get to me. Body odors bother me as well. And because most people tend to stink in one way or another there are very few people I can stand to be around.

Or maybe…just maybe…people are genuinely sensitive to certain odors.

Sensitivity to certain odors but not others is perfectly logical because they’re different chemical compounds. If someone is sensitive to solvent odors, it doesn’t follow that they ought to be sensitive to the smell of a curry. You may think that one strong smell equals another, but that’s not based on anything but your own desire to think people who report sensitivities to certain smells as crazy and or lying. What is this thing with you lately with not believing what people say?

Yeah, some people make a fetish of their own allergies/sensitivities, but most people don’t want to have them. It’s a pain in the ass. I got over mine, and I promise you I’m not any more mentally healthy now than I was then. Besides, you can’t “learn to tolerate” something that makes you sicker and sicker the more you’re exposed to it. I successfully got past mine by doing just the opposite.

Completely tangent, but they are doing some work on the elevators in my building. I’m not sure what the specific work is, but it has the oddest strong-ass smell of airplane glue and blue cheese. It’s an obnoxious combo.

The above has nothing to do with my experience with Tide Pods. I did not have any “reaction” to the smell. I did not even feel nauseated. They just smelled really bad to me.

The “it may be just you” thing wasn’t saying that I was imagining things. He explained that in P&G’s extensive testing of all sorts of products, they have found that there are always a few people who will have a negative reaction to any fragrance even if most everyone else likes it, and it’s not always the same people. They don’t necessarily know exactly why it happens that way, but it does, and in this case, I’m just one of those people for that product.

Can I ask you a question? You don’t have to answer it if you don’t want, but I feel compelled to ask this.

Do you have a single opinion or thought about ANYTHING that is independent of what your wife thinks? I swear it seems like you don’t. It really makes you come across as brainless and–dare I say–like you lack a lot of self-awareness. I’m sure your wife is a great person, but why should we care so much about what she thinks? She can’t be THAT much smarter than you are.

I disagree with her dismissal of people’s experiences. I’m a fairly insensitive person when it comes to taste and smell, so I can easily “chalk” these up when I have to. But when it comes to certain sounds and visual stimuli (bright lights), I have low tolerance. So with this reasoning alone, I can completely understand why someone may react “inconsistently” within the same sensory apparratus. One’s sensorium doesn’t operate on logic or reason. Feelings are neither right or wrong.

I know someone who has no problem with the smell of shit and will clean it up without blinking an eye. But vomit? She just can’t do it without yacking herself. If this is a neurotic hang-up, it’s the weirdest one I’ve ever heard of.

I ask my wife for her opinion just like I ask the SDMB. And given that I’ve been posting here for over 3 times longer than I’ve been with my wife, I have plenty of opinions of my own.

But I can understand if others project their own insecurities by attacking an individual, just like you Mostro have believed your female co workers do to you.

Yeah, I’m REALLY attacking you, dude.:rolleyes: I’m just trying to help YOU out. Just like how you try to help your geeky friends with the body odor or exposed butt cracks. If you weren’t always going on about people lacking self-awareness, I wouldn’t have even pointed it out. You aren’t too neurotic and insecure to receive a little feedback, are you?

You can tell your wife about all of this. I’m betting she’ll know exactly what to say to boost your self-esteem another eleventy-billion degrees.

:confused: I think you have me mixed up with somebody else. Can you provide an example of where I’ve said anything like this?