I’ve become increasing sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. For me it triggers an intense, immediate burning headache, dizziness, nausea, and a reflexive instinct to want to get away. The longer I’m exposed to the smell, I find it hard to look up, hard to make eye contact with people, my heart rate speeds up and I feel hot and a bit shivery. I feel like I have to keep an eye on the ground to know where it is, have trouble telling where objects are around me, and kind of lose my sense of where I am in space.

Background noise seems to become louder as well, and I feel a rising panic and need to escape. I had a ‘brain episode’ about 3-4 yrs ago, some kind of massive seizure that had symptoms similar to a stroke. Since then, my problems with perfumes have increased dramatically, though I think I’ve always had a slight problem with scents. In March 2009 I was prescribed Methotrexate (an immuno-suppressant) as my psoriasis had become so severe it almost landed me in hospital with a life-threatening version. This has side effects of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness, which have gradually lessened over time, but still rear up at least a couple of times each week. Since being on this drug I find it particularly difficult to cope with perfumes. From what my two ASD boys have been able to tell me, I think their responses are fairly similar, but they have difficulty describing the sensations, and they tend to go into Autistic withdrawal / blocking behaviours.

A couple of weeks ago we took the boys to a cinema to watch Despicable Me. A teenage girl entered with a small group of friends and sat in the row in front of us. The perfume smell was so strong I had to shift the four of us back 3 rows to escape it, and still left the cinema with a headache.

The worst places for the boys and I to enter are public toilets with automatic fragrance sprayers. One was introduced to our local shopping centre, and we were caught unawares. I sat down on the toilet, and was suddenly sprayed by a fountain of this horrible scent – it triggered of a bout of vomiting which meant I was stuck in there with the scent. When I finally escaped, I found that hubby had encountered the same problem on taking the boys into the Men’s toilet. The elder was biting his hands and pulling his hair, and the younger was bouncing and squirming uncontrollably. We abandoned the idea of grocery shopping and went home to recover. Now we make sure we go to the toilet at home before we leave.

Windex and whiteboard cleaning spray have an appalling effect on my elder son, trigger out of control behaviours, self harm, high temperatures, headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea. Perfumes and body sprays such as Impulse are awful, incense sticks are a nightmare, car and toilet deodorizing products are the worst, possibly due to the confined, airless space. – by email

Joomla SEF URLs by Artio