Use of scented products

  1. Scented products are problematic for an increasing number of people. Fragrance is a common trigger for asthma, allergies, and respiratory disorders. Given the nature of health care, it is highly likely that patients will be encountered that experience adverse effects from scented products.

    Though I never wore perfume to work, it was only after I developed severe respiratory sensitization to a common fragrance chemical did I realize how many products contained fragrance. Often toiletries, laundry products, and other items are highly scented and can be as problematic as perfumes.

    I have not worked as a nurse since 1990 because of my severe respiratory response to many scented products. But when I seek medical care, I often encounter nurses and other health care staff that use scented products. If I ever had to be hospitalized I would be in serious trouble.

    I am curious as to what policies are in place in hospitals and health care facilities regarding the use of scented products.

    I have compiled considerable information regarding health and environmental concerns related to scented products. Much of this information is available at: http://www.fpinva.org

    A referenced summary of concerns may be seen at:
    http://www.fpinva.org/activist__advo...volved.ref.htm
    •  
  2. 15 Comments

  3. by   P_RN
    Sites are really informative. Thank you.

    We had an LPN who went into Status Asthmaticus when the housekeeper began cleaning the carpet with no notice. She was in ICU for several days.

    She has never been able to return to work.

    I have intermittant asthma, usually in cold weather, but being with a heavily perfumed person in a closed space such as an elevator can set it off.

    No one understands until it comes to not being able to take in enough air!!!

    Fragrance doesn't belong in a hospital at all!
  4. by   canoehead
    WE had a respratory therapist that left waves of scent in her wake. You could walk into the ICU 10 min later and know that she had been there. I spoke to her twice but she swore she didn't use any perfume (ya right). Don't they get training on NO SCENTS as an RT???
  5. by   Betty Bridges
    Originally posted by canoehead
    WE had a respratory therapist that left waves of scent in her wake. You could walk into the ICU 10 min later and know that she had been there. I spoke to her twice but she swore she didn't use any perfume (ya right). Don't they get training on NO SCENTS as an RT???
    She may have not had on perfume per say. Many lotions, laundry products, shampoos, etc are as highly scented as traditional perfumes. A good perfume used to be formulated to last 6-8 hours. Now laundry products advertize the scent lasts for weeks. Products are deliberately formulated to quickly get into the air and linger for a long time.

    Simply abstaining from using perfume is not enough in a medical setting.

    People that use scented products on a regular basis get used to their odor and are no longer aware of it. She probably was not aware she was reeking. This is why I feel medical facilities should have inservices on this topic so that there is a better understanding of factors in detecting odor and the effects of scented products. Many people assume if they can not smell it, it is not there. This is simply not true.
  6. by   canoehead
    You know I thought that someone going up to her and saying "you stink" would somehow clue her in. If it was me I'd have turned beet red and headed straight to the bathroom.
  7. by   EXOTIC NURSE
    I understand how odors can be somewhat harmful to individuals but as I know for a fact it is kind of hard to not have a scent to your body if you shower daily and put on any kind of lotions or body sprays or even deoderant as I can smell my deoderant sometimes when I am just holding my arms up in the air and I use lotion on my hands constantly to keep them from being chaff and I used unscented lotion but eventually it ends up smelling like spit to me and makes me sick to my stomach the hospital provides some hand lotion and it is on the walls at every sink and it has a very light scent to it so I use that instead .....I use to take bath and body works and Victoria Secret scents to work but now I do not as to the scent being a little to strong for some to bear....some patients appreciated that I smelled fresh and would say you really smell good because the scent was not overbearing but I thought this was a very interesting topic......
  8. by   annies
    Thanks, Betty, for bringing up this topic. A few weeks ago, my sister had a double transplant. The ONLY problem she had during her hospital stay was ans asthma attack when an SICU nurse walked into her area to pick up an extra blanket for another pt. Luckily, her nurse was there and took care of the problem with Benedryl. The hospital apologized profusely, but never mentioned if there was or wasn't a policy.

    The next day the nurse returned, but with no perfume. She helped with my sister's care that day and they got along great. She said she never really thought anyone would have that violent a reaction to perfume and apologized.

    It seems like such a no-brainer to me. The chronically ill are so compromised, why would a well educated person fail to realize the harm they could do to a patient? I would love to see all nursing schools educating students on environmental allergies.

    Good sites, thank you.
  9. by   Betty Bridges
    Most shampoos, deodorants, lotions, etc do contain fragrance. There are unscented deodorants and lotions readily available. Finding unscented shampoos is more difficult. Unscented laundry products are also available in the most popular brands. Using unscented products as much as possible. Scent in cleaners, etc used in the hospital can also cause problems.

    When one thinks of scented products, one thinks about the smell or the odor. And people that are ill or pregnant are more sensitive to odors. The problems related to fragrance go far beyond odor. Odor is only one property of the chemicals used in fragrance.

    Many fragrance chemicals are skin and respiratory irritants. About 70% stimulate the trigeminal nerve to one degree or another (can cause tearing, runny nose, etc). Some of the materials can cause sedation and effect autonomic nervous system parameters such as pulse and blood pressure.

    There are considerable health concerns related to fragrance that are documented in medical literature. One study showed 15% of the general population found perfumes to be a lower airway irritant (21% found second hand smoke to be). The Institute of Medicine reviewed the medical literature on the effects of indoor air pollutants on asthma. It placed fragrance in the same category as second hand smoke in triggering asthma in adults and school age children.

    Fragrance is the number one cause of allergic skin reactions to cosmetics and cleaning products. Nurses are at risk of developing skin allergy to fragrance due to frequent handwashing.

    Nursing and expectant mothers, as well as those planning on pregnancy should also be concerned. Synthetic musk compounds accumulate in body tissue, cross the placental barrier, and are found in human breast milk. Some of these compounds are suspected of being carcinogens or co-carcinogens. Most have not been studied and the effects are not known.

    While to some it is apparent that fragrance should be avoided in the clinical setting, others simply do not know. While there is information regarding concerns, there is little general awareness even in health care. That is why there is such a great need for education on this topic.

    If anyone's health care facility is interested in doing an inservice on the topic, I would be happy to help with information for it.
  10. by   RNKitty
    Originally posted by EXOTIC NURSE
    I understand how odors can be somewhat harmful to individuals but as I know for a fact it is kind of hard to not have a scent to your body if you shower daily and put on any kind of lotions or body sprays or even deoderant as I can smell my deoderant sometimes when I am just holding my arms up in the air and I use lotion on my hands constantly to keep them from being chaff and I used unscented lotion but eventually it ends up smelling like spit to me and makes me sick to my stomach the hospital provides some hand lotion and it is on the walls at every sink and it has a very light scent to it so I use that instead .....I use to take bath and body works and Victoria Secret scents to work but now I do not as to the scent being a little to strong for some to bear....some patients appreciated that I smelled fresh and would say you really smell good because the scent was not overbearing but I thought this was a very interesting topic......
    WOW! You said all that in one breath? (No periods)
  11. by   mustangsheba
    I am SO allergic to whatever is in the soap at most of the hospitals around here. As soon as I smell it, my head starts to hurt and my nose starts to plug up. Someone on here said that this reaction has been reported by others.
  12. by   Betty Bridges
    MSNBC article: Scents and sensitivities

    What to know before buying
    a Valentine's Day perfume

    By Francesca Lyman
    MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR



    Feb. 6 - Perfume, according to marketing claims, will help us attract a romantic partner and make us feel sexier. But giving a bottle of cologne or perfume for Valentine's Day may not be healthy for your intended, say some experts. Certain fragrances and their chemical constituents can trigger an allergic, rather than an aphrodisiac, response.

    http://www.msnbc.com/news/702445.asp

    Betty Bridges, RN
    Fragranced Products Information Network
    http://www.fpinva.org
  13. by   reyna
    i would understand if the scent is too strong...but i would rather have a nurse who would at least smell and look fresh with a light scent that someone who smells like sweat =)
  14. by   Jenny P
    I have asthma, but have not had many problems with scents til this past year. My daughter is in college now, and when she was home recently, I had a SEVERE reaction. It was to the Fabreze she uses on her clothes and to the dryer sheets she uses at school (we have never used either product here in our home before). Who would have thought that clothing cleaning products would do that?

close