Surviving a Candle/Scent Allergy

Have you ever gone into someone’s home, and though it smells great, you can’t stop sneezing, get a headache or maybe have trouble breathing? If they have candles burning, it could be that you are experiencing a candle allergy.

Often it is the fragrance from the candle itself that leads to the sensitivity. More specifically the scented oils, not the smoke that causes allergic reactions like watery eyes or runny nose (this always happens to my mom). People with perfume allergies will be more susceptible to candles (and other scented things like air freshener). The more added scents, the more likely to be allergic.

With the holidays coming up, candles are more popular in homes. They do offer a beautiful light and a festive feel, but if the fragrance is too strong, it’s not worth burning them. There are some ways, though, to have your candles and remain allergy free a the same time:

• Invest in soy candles. Not only are they more environmentally sound but they burn cleaner and people are shown to have less allergies to the soy wax than traditional paraffin wax. Paraffin can leave a sooty residue that can build up on walls and ceilings if burned too much.
• Look for candles made from essential oils rather than artificial fragrance. Again, it goes back to things in purest form are often the best for you. While this may not help everyone, it has been shown that people have less reaction to natural fragrance.
• Choose fragrances with a single note rather than a mixed scent. For instance, vanilla may be more conducive to keeping allergies at bay than Tropical Fusion. If you know something irritates you, choose another fragrance.
• Use battery operated candles if traditional candles just don’t work for you. With some of the battery operated ones now, you can’t tell at first glance that they are not real. With no smoke, this is better for some allergies and people with asthma. Plus, there is the safety advantage of a flameless candle.
• Use unscented candles. Though these may be harder to find, they are available. Custom manufacturers (which are common and easy to find, plus not as expensive as you’d think) can make these for you, and they can do any color you’d want so you aren’t limited to a neutral color.*
• Always burn candles in a well ventilated area.
• 100% beeswax candles have been reported to actually help allergies and asthma. But they have to be 100%, not a combination.

*When we think custom, we normally think expensive. However, if you look in your area, you can probably find a small business that makes candles. Often these are of soy or other vegetable wax instead of paraffin. You can also look around online for some that have reasonable prices. If considering these, think about them not only for yourself, but as gifts. Then maybe next time you visit your friend’s house, she’ll have a more “friendly” candle burning!

Dealing with scent allergies

Perfume allergies are a huge annoyance to many people, simply because you can’t get away. My mother is highly allergic to some perfumes, not all. It just depends on the scents used in them. There is a certain brand she really likes, and the other day, a sample came in the mail from this designer. Since she’s had success with them before, she put the tiniest amount on her wrist. Then the headache came, the nausea and the sneezing.

One day I was off to a tennis match and my partner came to pick me up. Same experience, I had sprayed on  a tester, something I normally didn’t wear. The whole way to our match we were sniffling and my poor partner was coughing and eyes were watering. I didn’t even have that much on. Not a great way to start a match. At Least we were outside!

And what about if you work with a perfume wearer? Can you ask them not to wear it? What if your child’s teacher coats it on in the morning and your child is allergic? How about if you’re sitting next to someone at church who is wafting the perfume scent around?

It’s a hard matter to deal with, as perfume is personal and people usually don’t think about infringing on another’s well being when they put it on.

It’s also hard to differentiate and say all perfume, or some heavier ones or perhaps ones that contain rose or maybe verbena. It’s not perfume in general that people are allergic to, it’s the ingredients. So if you are allergic to cedar, a perfume with cedar fragrance in it may cause symptoms to flare up. Other perfumes may sit fine with you.

So how do you handle it? Learn from your mistakes is one – I won’t wear new perfume when I’ll be in close quarters with someone, or even much perfume. You never know how someone will react. Only try a tiny bit if it’s new to make sure it agrees with you. If it doesn’t, wash it off. You may need to use some alcohol to get the fragrance off, sometimes it will stay much longer than needed.

Let your friends, family and coworkers know about your condition and maybe they’ll be sympathetic and keep their great new perfume for those times when you are not around.

One comment

  1. Bad idea. Soy is harmful. I nearly died from soy candle exposure thanks to clueless aunt at christmas. I blacked out driving home after breathing in that toxic spew. If your home stinks so much you have to cover the smell and use up the oxygen then you have bigger problems!

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