by Joseph Brownstein
November 06, 2011
People with asthma or allergies may want to avoid air fresheners and
other chemicals used to spread fragrant scents through their homes,
and their doctors should be aware of the hazards.
"The chemicals in some of these
products can trigger the nasal congestion, sneezing and the
runny nose," Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist with Emory
University and the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic.
"With the asthmatics, there's really
good data showing their lung function changes when they're
exposed to these compounds."
Fineman said that he was hoping
to raise awareness of the issue, so that doctors and
allergy and asthma patients would
be more aware of a potential cause of irritation.
As the incoming president of the
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, he spoke
today (Nov. 6) at the groupís meeting in Boston.
"A lot of patients say that they
don't correlate an increase of their symptoms with exposure,"
Fineman told MyHealthNewsDaily. "One of the things that I'm
trying to do in my talk is make our members, the allergists that
are in practice, more aware of this problem."
Fineman said there is not necessarily an
increase in allergies to any of the
compounds in fragrance products, but that products such as air
fresheners, scented candles, plug-in deodorizers and wick diffusers
seem to be used much more often.
"People who have asthma, a large
number of them are
chemically sensitive, and
therefore find fragrant products irritating," said Stanley
Caress, a professor in the department of environmental studies
at the University of West Georgia.
"Most commercial perfume products,
even air fresheners, have chemical makeups and therefore are
A 2009 study by Caress and
Anne Steinenmann at the
University of Washington found that nearly a third of people with
asthma also have chemical hypersensitivity, and more than a third
reported irritation from scented products.
"The more you're around, the more
likely it is to cause an attack," Caress said. "People with
asthma, many of them should try to avoid artificially fragranced
Also by Anne Steinenmann:
Caress said that advice can apply to products that may be labeled
"natural" as well.
"Some people have natural allergies
to things like wood, so they might have trouble with things like
that as well."
There are other ways people can make
their homes smell good, Fineman said, for example some people have
turned to cookie baking.
"As allergists, we are specialists
in determining what triggers a patient's symptoms," he said.
"This is basically just another aspect of what we do, in terms
of finding out what triggers a patient's symptoms, and how we
can help them deal with it."