Migraine Control: Fragrances

Several weeks ago, I had one of my worst migraines following a visit to a doctor’s office.  A Glade Plug-in was running in the waiting room, and I smelled it the instant I entered.  I requested to be taken back to a different waiting room with the hope that I could avoid the pain that these little tormentors have caused in the past.  This fast escape wasn’t fast enough or far enough though.  Even though I spent less than 5 minutes in the waiting room, I had a migraine that lasted for the next 5 days.  Evidently, people had smoked in the waiting room since I had last been there, and the doctor didn’t want the room to smell like smoke.  This thought just blows my mind!  Isn’t smoking inside a public place prohibited?  Why not deal with the root cause of the problem rather than just cover it up with neurotoxins and carcinogens.

Seriously, air fresheners contain formaldehyde (which is a known carcinogen), xylene (a neurotoxin), toluene (known to cause kidney and liver damage), etc.  In this article, manufacturers claim that the levels of chemicals that are emitted by air fresheners, laundry detergent, fabric softener are “not known to cause any problems.”  Well, let me testify – it’s a problem for me!  Other migraineurs also have this problem as reported on migraine.com.

Lavender growing in my garden

Lavender growing in my garden

Lavender wands

Lavender wands

There doesn’t seem to be much I can do about the world outside of my house with regard to fragrances, but here are 3 things that I do at my house.  First, I enjoy natural scents such as lavender.  I enjoy growing it in my garden and using it to make lavender wands to bring inside my house.

Secondly, I use shampoo, conditioner, and cream from National Allergy Supply.  These products have no fragrance or masking fragrance and have the double advantage of not causing allergic reactions or migraines for me.

Lastly, I make my own laundry detergent so that I’m not carrying a migraine-inducing fragrance around with me all day long.  The recipe for the laundry detergent included below does include borax which is noted to cause skin and respiratory irritation for some people, but I haven’t had these problems.  The amount used is so minimal per load, and it is washed out by the washing machine.  I also try to minimize the amount of time it is heated on the stove by making sure that the water is already simmering before I add it.  And – there’s rarely a perfect solution to a problem.  We just do the best we can.  Here’s the plus side:

In the same way that water tastes like nothing, my clothes smell like nothing:)

It Smells Like Nothing Laundry Detergent

1 cup water
1/4 bar grated Kirk’s Fragrance Free Castille soap
1/4 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda)
1/8 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

  1. Fill a 2.75 qt. (or so) container (like a pitcher) 3/4 full with hot water.
  2. Heat the water in a small saucepan until simmering.
  3. Add the castille soap and stir until completely dissolved.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until completely dissolved.
  5. Remove from the heat and add to the pitcher.
  6. Fill the container the rest of the way with tap water and allow to cool.
  7. Note that the detergent will thicken over the next few days, but not completely turn to get as with other similar recipes.  This is already thinned so that I pour from my pitcher into the machine.  I use 1 to 2 Tbsp. per load depending on the load size.
  8. When your clothes are finished, smell NOTHING:)


11 thoughts on “Migraine Control: Fragrances

  1. I not only have migraines I have asthma, sometimes it’s pretty bad. I’ll walk in a waiting room that has one of those plug ins and walk out. My husband has to tell them I’m there and waiting outside. He will come get me. another big problem I have is people using perfume. Do they smell that bad before? I got in an empty elevator the other day and was over come by the smell of perfume. Evidently someone had just gotten off who was wearing a lot. I was so sick by the time I got of, and I only went one floor. Scents are a major trigger, and people need to be more aware.
    I complained at my PT office about therapist wearing perfume and patients…they now have a policy that the therapist can’t and they have a sign in the waiting room that asks people to refrain from wearing any. That was amazing. and I don’t have a problem there now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was really surprised at the reaction that I received from this particular office (have to have it to cover smoke smell). It would have been great to have had the response you received. I’m glad it worked for you:)


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