Sunday, February 9, 2014

Migraine and Osmophobia - It's the Chemicals Silly!

Diagnosis: Osmophobia

According to my neurologist, I have:
  • Migraine 346.00
  • Osmophobia (sensory disorder of smell) 781.1
The migraine transformed to chronic several years ago.  I experience disabling symptoms more than 15 days each month. Where once I had occasional discrete migraine episodes, they now tend to blend together. I'm lucky when I get 2 or 3 "good days" in a row. I am using all my resources to care for myself, avoid migraine triggers,  and regain my ability to live fully.

Unfortunately, avoiding triggers in a world full of fragrance is well nigh impossible for the osmophobe.

Migraine is a hereditary disease sometimes accompanied by osmophobia. In fact, my mother used to get migraines from perfume.  In today's toxic world scent-triggered migraine seems to have become a disease of civilization; a small part of a vast, preventable public health problem.

Osmophobia can manifest as an "extreme sensitivity to odors" during the headache phase.

Yes, I do exhibit high sensitivity to odors during a migraine.  I also experience an extreme sensitivity to fragrance  100% of the time. Migraine heightens my experience of all smells, pleasant or unpleasant, but non-petroleum-based odors do not trigger migraine, fragrance does.

"Fragrance" refers specifically to a mix of undisclosed, unregulated petrochemicals in volatile form found in perfume and in many consumer products.

Fragrance fumes ignite multiple debilitating migraine symptoms in my body, upon contact with my olfactory nerve. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: visual disturbances, double or cloudy vision, tunnel vision, brain fog, confusion, fatigue, loss of memory, mood swings, dizziness, dysphagia, vertigo, nausea, and of course, PAIN in the head, eyes and neck.

That I am very sensitive to strong odors is an understatement. Fumes from the neighbor's dryer vent feel like chemical warfare (think someone spraying RAID Pesticide spray into your face). Proximity to someone who has applied Old Spice After Shave lotion feels like sticking my head in an oven full of EASY OFF oven cleaner.

It's not the smell. It's the chemicals!

Osmophobia can be described as "smelling things that aren't there" during the aura phase of a migraine episode.

I do NOT "smell things that aren't there". Quite the opposite; I possess a heightened ability to detect what IS THERE; that is, volatile chemicals, many of which have been  scientifically proven  to be neurotoxic, carcinogenic and otherwise hazardous.

"Phobia" implies unreasonable fear.  On the contrary, fear of fragrance is highly reasonable because fragrance chemicals can exacerbate and/or cause diseases in any of us; even in those who enjoy the smell of chemically scented products.

                                                 We are not alone

What a relief to find an online community of folks living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS); Environmental Illness (EI); and/or Chemical Injury (CI); sometimes referred to as Canaries (whose coal mine is modern civilization).

Although not diagnosed with MCS,  I identify as a canary and have learned so much from them. I've learned how to protect myself from chemicals, how to create a #FragranceFree environment and how to advocate for rights as a person with an invisible disability.

I am humbled by the songs of isolation and discrimination sung by Canaries around the world.  Many struggle alone and impoverished to find safe environments in which to work, live or obtain medical treatment or education. Along the way they meet harassment, ridicule and grow increasingly sensitized from repeated exposure to fumes.

Public awareness is growing among health, environment and family advocates who have the energy for activism. Several robust U.S. advocacy organizations are impacting commerce using pocketbook pressure. Please check out the consumer awareness campaigns and resources at:

                                           Educate and Protect Yourself 

I cringe when favorite #spoonie or #migraine bloggers post about pedicures, bubble baths, salon appointments or  aromatherapy used as a form of self-care. In all likelihood these "treats" are full of poison. Even products labeled, "unscented", "natural", "organic" tend to have chemical ingredients. Although the smell may not "bother" you or cause an immediate reaction, they are nonetheless hazardous to your health. Some essential oils are created using petrochemical solvents and are not safe.

You may not have osmophobia or MCS "YET"*. But the toxic, secret ingredients of "fragrance" include undisclosed and under regulated sensitizers that can begin to affect anyone, any time.

Mogridge- Senses under assault

 *Y.E.T. = You're Eligible Too

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