Air Freshener Allergy? More Common Than You Think

Many people rely on scented products such as sprays, plug-ins, and light-up items to keep their homes and workspaces smelling great. But for people with allergies, these products can lead to sneezing, coughing, and wheezing.

Research on Air Freshener Allergies

A study that appeared in the Journal of Environmental Health in 2009 took a close look at the growing use of scented products and explored the consequences. The researchers surveyed more than 2,000 adults and found that as many as 31 percent of them experienced symptoms when they were exposed to scents worn by other people, while 19 percent reported headaches and breathing difficulties sparked by scented air fresheners. For 11 percent of respondents, even scented laundry products caused allergy symptoms.

The VOC Link

At the heart of most air freshener allergies are volatile organic compounds, commonly known as VOCs. These are vapors that form when scented products release chemicals into the air. For many people, exposure to certain VOCs can trigger a wide array of nasal and respiratory symptoms.

What to expect from each product can vary a great deal. In fact, another article published in the Environmental Impact Assessment Review in 2011 revealed that some scented products have large amounts of VOCs, or particularly hazardous types, which can cause more extreme reactions.

Minimize Air Freshener Allergies

In an effort to help consumers protect themselves from an air freshener allergy, manufacturers of air fresheners and related products are required to clearly list all ingredients that could make people sick or put them at risk. But some experts warn that this may not be enough for some consumers.

There's no specific allergy test on the market today to confirm air freshener allergies, so it's important to trust your symptoms and read labels to avoid buying anything scented if you feel this could trigger symptoms.

What You Can Do

Keep your house ultra clean to avoid the need to mask unwanted smells. Some of the biggest odor offenders in the home include pet accidents, dirty garbage cans, and musty towels. Address these issues with natural products, such as baking soda and vinegar, instead.

When exposure to scented products outside of the home is a problem, take an antihistamine or other allergy medications to head off symptoms. If a reaction caused by scented products is an ongoing issue, see an allergist.




Caress, SM, Steinemann, AC. "Prevalence of Fragrance Sensitivity in the American Population." Journal of Environmental Health 71(7) (March 2009):46-50. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.

Steinemann, AC et al. "Fragranced Consumer Products: Chemicals Emitted, Ingredients Unlisted." Environmental Impact Assessment Review 31 (3) (April 2011): 328-333. Web. 8 Dec. 2011.