Sensory Hyperreactivity and Chemical Sensitivity, Tilia
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Latest update: 2011-02-27

About this website

This website aims to present scientific facts in a popular way to persons who suffer from – or know someone who suffers from airway hyperreactivity to odors and chemical substances. During the last decade, increasing research activity in Sweden has been devoted to patients with non-asthmatic and non-allergic symptoms triggered by fragrances, perfumed products and other chemical substances. These studies have been reported in reviewed international scientific journals. The facts, conclusions and theories from the research are presented at this website in several abstracts. The full text papers can be ordered from the journals, as they have the copyrights. There is a minor book in English to be downloaded. "In The Air – Be Aware" is a summary from my research after 1996. It is written to a non-expert who suffers from - or knows someone who suffers from - airway problems caused by chemicals and scents. It has an extensive reference list. It is also available in a three-pages introductory information.

On this website you can find recent medical research and a theoretical background to what may happen in patients with airway sensitivity to chemical irritants like scents, exhausts, perfume and other toiletries, solvents, some flowers, sick buildings and cigarette smoke.

Hypersensitivity to chemical irritants in the airways may resemble asthma and allergy in many ways though the asthma and allergy work up is normal. This can lead to wrong diagnosis and incorrect use of medications. Hypersensitivity to chemical irritants is not a minor problem in the western world. Several studies show that more than 30% of a population, in some degree, suffers from airways problems caused by strong fragrances and irritating chemical substances. Another study shows that quality of life is significantly reduced for these patients regarding leisure, hobbies, social life, and household work. In general, there is an over-representation of women regarding sensitivity to odors and scents.

Our use of scented products is rising. We do not longer experience many of the natural smells that surrounded us a century ago. Only few of us still enjoy the smell of the barn or the scent of new-mown hay. Contrary, the habit of scenting various products by all kinds of chemicals is increasing and done routinely. Unlike flavouring in food, for which the ingredients must be declared, there are no requirements for declaring scent additives. New shoes should smell like leather, and are thereby scented with the smell of leather and so on and on. Other products are scented to hide a smell that may be perceived as unpleasant, including plastic goods and sanitary products, like CDs and diapers. Scenting public environments is another area to be gaining in popularity; recently the daily press mentioned that the Paris Metro and London Underground would be scented with perfume to enhance the atmosphere.

More research is under way and as soon as further understandings and knowledge are gained, we will present these findings on this website. For the moment we are trying to find underlying mechanisms of airway hyperreactivity to chemical irritants. Next step will be to find effective diagnostic methods and treatments according to the mechanisms. But until then, the best way to handle the problems is to reduce the amount of chemicals in the daily environment and to avoid scented products as much as possible. When patients feel ready to bring up the problems with those around them, much has been won. Often letting others know about these problems goes better than expected. A person who is hypersensitive to scents must dare to speak about these problems and what triggers them with the family, friends and colleagues.

The purpose of the site is to inform as many people as possible in an easy way about new scientific findings. Welcome to my website where you will get a chance to learn more about your airway problems caused by odors and chemicals.

With best regards,

Eva Millqvist
Professor, MD, PhD
University of Gothenburg
Department of Internal Medicine/Respiratory Medicine and Allergology
Sahlgrenska University Hospital