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Scent Sensitivity in the Workplace

What is Scent Sensitivity?

Sensitivity to fragrance/scents is an allergic reaction to one or more chemicals found in natural and manufactured scented products. However, fragrance ingredients are not required to be disclosed on products, therefore making it difficult to pinpoint the common chemical in products. Here is a list of some of the products that may contain scents: 

shampoo & conditioners potpourri colognes & perfumes
lotions & creams soaps scented oils & sprays
deodorants candles air fresheners & deodorizers
hair spray & hair products industrial chemicals household chemicals

How does Scent Sensitivity affect people?

There are two types of allergic responses to scent sensitivity, respiratory and skin allergy. A respiratory response can include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, headaches, and asthma-like symptoms. Sometimes, scent allergies can result in an anaphylactic response, which could be fatal if not treated properly and immediately. The other type of response is a skin allergy, also known as contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis can present itself in a variety of ways, such as redness, itching, burning of the skin, headaches, watery eyes, and stuffy nose, as well as a variety of other symptoms.

Listed below are examples of symptoms that people with scent sensitivity have reported:


loss of appetite


dizziness &/or light-headedness

upper respiratory symptoms



shortness of breath


skin irritation

difficulty with concentration

fatigue &/or malaise

How can you help?

Although scents are unavoidable at times, especially in the spring and summer, when flowers are blooming and people are using scents to mask body odors due to sweat, some ways that you can help in the workplace are:

  1. Remove any scents possible from the environment.
  2. Switch to non-scented options, such as non-scented deodorant.
  3. Avoid using scents in confined spaces, such as the bathroom.
  4. Avoid using scents if you are in close contact with the person that has the sensitivity.
  5. Spread the word! Let people know as much as possible about scent sensitivity and raise awareness about scent allergies.

There are many more steps that can be taken to help those with a fragrance allergy, but the most important part is that you are trying your best to avoid triggering an allergic reaction and treat it with the same importance as you would when managing other types of allergies that may result in severe reactions.

For further assistance, contact 

You are also encouraged to print and post the guidelines that can be found below in common areas.

Thank you for doing your part!