Migraine-ous Fragrances at Work: Know your Rights

Published on: Modified on:



Migraines at work: Your employer doesn’t allow smoking, but what about perfumes? Synthetic fragrances trigger migraines, exacerbate asthma symptoms, and cause severe allergic reactions in many people. If you suffer from migraines at work caused by environmental odors, then you have the right to do something about it.


One of the most frustrating migraine triggers to have to deal with is other people’s fragrances. Like weather-related headaches, migraines from perfumes are just hard to avoid!

Try as you might to reduce migraine attacks by watching your diet, taking your meds, and experimenting with natural migraine remedies, there’s not much you can do about your boss’s obsession with Obsession, by Calvin Klein.

Or is there?

Warning: perfumes emit toxic fumes

It’s more than just a mild annoyance; synthetic fragrances in closed atmospheres can cause the following reactions:

  • Migraine attacks
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hyperventilation
  • Hives
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Coughing
  • Sore throat

It’s not really the scent that causes headaches; it’s the chemicals that manufacturers put in the perfumes, some of which are also found in cigarettes, which create fumes that make you physically ill.

Know your rights

Understand that your right to work in a migraine-free, healthy environment is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and that it overrides one’s right for self-expression through perfume. There is no logical reason that you should have to suffer migraine headaches that last for days, simply because somebody at work happens to enjoy wearing perfumes or strongly-scented lotions.

The law is on your side- OSHA has very specific standards regarding environmental toxins in the work place, and perfumes, which are chemicals, after all, definitely fall into that category.

Suggest to clear the air

Many work places have put a ban on the wearing of perfume.  Ask your boss if your company has a similar “fragrance-free” policy. It’s possible that a simple company communication can put an end to your perfume-triggered migraine attacks.

If your employer doesn’t have a policy regarding perfumes, then tell him why they should start one:

  • Your right to work in a toxin-free environment is protected by law.
  • By reducing the number of migraine attacks at work, establishing a no-perfume policy will improve your performance.
  • Cleaner air in the work place will reduce the amount of time lost due to migraine headaches, allergy flare-ups, and asthma attacks.
  • Remind him of the $100,000 settlement that one woman won against her employer, who refused to establish a fragrance-free policy.

(Want to know the best way to approach your coworkers about perfume? Catch our next installment, Migraine-ous Fragrances at Work: 20 Civil Tactics and Coping Strategies!)

Please tell us…

How do you deal with migraines in the work place?

Have you ever approached a coworker about her perfume? What was her response?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

Share with your friends

If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, Facebook, or Google+.

You might also like:

Helping Others Understand Migraines- 8 Communication Tips

Managing your Migraines at Work- 4 Healthy Changes in Attitude

Perfumes and Migraines: The Good, the Bad, and the Downright Stinky

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net