Perfume allergy...what to do?

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    I am the charge nurse of an acute dialysis unit and I am stuck in a 4-bedded room all day. Over the past few months I have noticed that I have developed a severe allergy to perfume. It is so overwhelming that as soon as someone walks into the room wearing perfume I immediately recoil and start having breathing difficulties ( I have asthma too) and I literally feel like I can't breathe. Shortly after an exposure to perfume, I start getting a severe headache, nausea and fatigue. My trachea feels like it's been burned for a few hours afterwards. I have posted some signs around the room and on the door warning people to please not wear perfume in the dialysis room but people just don't notice or ignore it.

    The problem is that my manager is not based in the hospital as we are contractors. I don't feel like I can approach the hospital management for fear of upsetting my own management and I don't think anyone is going to take this seriously. In a hospital you have no control over who is coming into the door. Thankfully we don't allow relatives or visitors but the issues I have had are mainly with doctors, other nurses and transport people. I asked a transport worker the other day to please not wear perfume if she was going to come to dialysis and she looked at me as if I was insane. She said "what can I do if I need to come to dialysis?". I said "maybe not wear perfume to work". She complained to her manager who called me and yelled at me as if I was asking for something outrageous. Luckily these people don't stay long, however the after effects of the chemical exposure last for hours afterwards.

    Has anyone had any experience of dealing with this? I am feeling ill!
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  4. 29 Comments so far...

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    My mom has a similar problem, so I never wear perfume anymore. I am surprised you got yelled at for requesting that the transport worker not wear perfume. There are soooooo many people that have reactions to perfume that I cannot believe people will not respect your request.

    I have no ideas on how to help you with this problem. I just consider it common courtesy for people to do their best to comply with a request that is in the interest of health. I am so sorry you have to deal with this! Perhaps you can get a doctor's note documenting your allergy to show management?

    Miz Que
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    That's a great idea, thanks. I'll do that. Getting yelled at was more to do with the person than me I think. She's a very loud domineering woman at the best of times!
    mamamerlee likes this.
  7. 4
    Quote from Rocknurse
    That's a great idea, thanks. I'll do that. Getting yelled at was more to do with the person than me I think. She's a very loud domineering woman at the best of times!
    In the old days when hospital workers wore white on duty and long nails, nail polish, street clothes, dangling earrings and rings other than plain bands were prohibited, perfume was barred too. Maybe they should bring that back.
    Batman25, Faeriewand, learninmama, and 1 other like this.
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    See if you can check that facility's policy - many places have a 'no perfume/cologne' policy already, it may need to be reinforced.
    And your manager should back you up - ask if any of the patients are bothered by the strong odors, as well.
    Many years ago, I started to wheeze just moments after another nurse who drenched herself with her scent walked into the room. She immediately realized that she was a bit heavy-handed.
    Not everyone will do anything about their habits.
    Best wishes.
    Faeriewand, learninmama, and scoochy like this.
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    I've been this way for years. In the 90's, I had several ER visits due to perfume exposure. Right now, I'm fairly functional with the Advair/Singulair combo, so you might want to look into fiddling around with your asthma meds.

    I have found that most people don't particularly care and few will change their habits no matter how sick you get. For me, it's worth changing jobs over. You can deal with the occasional patient or visitor making you sick, but when it's a co-worker, you're guaranteed to be exposed repeatedly.
  10. 3
    You have every right to document this with your physician and request that your employer advocate for you. I just worked for a large hospital organization which had a no tolerance policy for staff and scents.

    If you are unable to affect any significant change you may have to wear your TB mask to prevent your symptoms, or find other employment...your health is important.
    yalienne, Faeriewand, and scoochy like this.
  11. 1
    Quote from GeneralJinjur
    I have found that most people don't particularly care and few will change their habits no matter how sick you get. For me, it's worth changing jobs over. You can deal with the occasional patient or visitor making you sick, but when it's a co-worker, you're guaranteed to be exposed repeatedly.
    This gets right to the crux of the problem. People do not *care* whether you can breathe or not. They care about their own rights to "express themself." You can beg, plead, threaten and warn but nothing will change. If it happens a lot I would consider finding a new job. Obviously nobody at this one "gets it" and one of these days you're going to have a full-blown anaphylactic reaction.And you know what? they still won't get it.They'll step over your cold dead body and find someone to take your place. Just like that.

    Good luck.
    sharpeimom likes this.
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    Quote from mustlovepoodles
    This gets right to the crux of the problem. People do not *care* whether you can breathe or not. They care about their own rights to "express themself." You can beg, plead, threaten and warn but nothing will change. If it happens a lot I would consider finding a new job. Obviously nobody at this one "gets it" and one of these days you're going to have a full-blown anaphylactic reaction.And you know what? they still won't get it.They'll step over your cold dead body and find someone to take your place. Just like that.

    Good luck.
    I think the bolded statement may be part of the problem. People generally don't respond well to these tactics, particularly the threatening and warning. The focus becomes on the method of requesting rather then the request itself. It's all in the approach -- a simple, straightforward explanation, followed by just asking (rather than begging and pleading) may result in more compliance from others.
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    Thanks for all your replies. I just got prescribed Singulair to accompany my Advair so we'll see how that does. I love my job and don't want to leave, particularly as there is no guarantee it won't happen even worse in the next job. This is an environmental hazard, not just an occupational one. I will try to be nice about it and ask nicely. I don't want to cause waves but I don't want to be ill!


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