Etiquette for the Chemically Sensitive

Inspired by the recent thread: Hold Your Breath in the Detergent Aisle?

Let’s discuss etiquette issues related to trying to live with chemical sensitivity–how do you avoid what you need to without being rude or causing a scene?

I’ll start with a question:

We have good friends who live in another state. Therefore, when we go to visit them, we stay for a whole day, or overnight. So, I use the bathroom a number of times per visit. In the powder room, they have a plug-in air “freshener,” which emits an intolerable odor. I use the upstairs bathroom when I can, but sometimes, I find myself using the powder room and suffering the (admittedly mild) negative effects because it would be awkward or embarrassing to go upstairs.

I don’t want them to feel bad about inconveniencing me and/or causing me suffering in the past. I don’t want them to think that they have to take the air stink-ifier out on my account. But on the other hand, maybe they’d like to know that the air freshener is making the bathroom practically unusable for some people. And I’d like them to know why I run upstairs to go to the bathroom. I suppose it seems kind of weird.

So, do I tell my friends why I use the upstairs bathroom?

I’d say absolutely, tell them…it is not going to inconvenience them in the least to remove the air freshener when you visit. It’s not as if you’re asking them to board their pets because you’re allergic!

I say tell them… if they are friends over whose house you can sleep that would suggest them not being offended if you told them you had a chemical allergy.

I had a cleanser free household for a month while my mother stayed (she broke her leg) as she is violently allergic to ammonia and paranoid about everything else. (She carries an epi pen and has been to the ER a few times over this)

For me cigarette smoke makes me very ill. Perfumes will also make me sick if they are too strong. I tell people and my friends are very gracious about it… we don’t go places that allow smoking (they’ve seen me get violently ill before) And they don’t douse themselves in scents either when we’re together.

This is nothing to be ashamed of! If you were diabetic you wouldn’t eat something loaded with sugar just to keep up appearances (I hope) Or if you were lactose intolerant you would explain that as you passed on the ice cream… same issue here :slight_smile:

Totally agree w/above advice. I would just add that your allergies are getting worse. Most people know about allergies.

I would tell your friend, too. You said it’s a good friend, after all. I used to feel really uncomfortable saying things to people when I first became chemically sensitive, but it’s become a lot easier. It’s not like you’re personally insulting the other party, and if they take it that way, that is really their issue, not yours. You have no control over someone else’s reaction to your statements or requests, but you do have every right to take care of yourself. Not that your friend would overreact… I’m just saying in general.
Ironically, this air freshener is probably something she’s putting in the powder room as an extra touch for guests, to make things nicer for company, yet here it is making things worse for you. Wouldn’t it be funny if she was like, “Oh, Green Bean is coming this weekend. I’d better get a new air freshener for the powder room”?

Absolutely tell them. Any host worth their hospitality will gladly cater to such a minor request by a guest. It’s not like you’re asking them to repaint or something. If there is a natural scent source that you enjoy, bring that as a gift to them for use in the loo during your visit.