TAMPA (FOX 13) - Perfumes and colognes are associated with sophistication and beauty. Some people get great pleasure from these aromatic offerings. But for others it's a sickening scent.
Tampa resident Judy Hoffman says it’s more than just a little irritating – it’s a health issue.
"In the very beginning my throat would swell up, I experienced flushing in my arms, shortness of breath, my blood pressure would go down,” she said. “It was exhausting.”
And to add insult to irritation, she had a tough time convincing people their scents were making her sick.
"You've got people who are criticizing and ridiculing or discounting what you're saying it's an uphill battle," Judy continued.
Allergy specialist Dr. Alan Halsey says the symptoms are all too real. "Something that starts from the smell, it could give them the very same things that a conventional allergic reaction includes.”
But he admits testing for these irritants can be a challenge.
"When someone relates a reaction to vapors or smells from whatever the source, we have to pretty much take that at face value because we don't have a standardized test. There’s no blood test, no skin test for that," Halsey explained.
And it's not just perfumes. Household cleaners, air fresheners, even hand sanitizers can have the same devastating effects. They can all have different combinations of manmade chemicals,
according to Dr. Rajiv Sahay, lab director at Clearwater based PureAir Control Services.
"Synthetic products are cheap, and it can be like a long-lasting effect sometimes and that's why some people started using that," said Rajiv.
In March, the International Fragrance Association reported it revised a risk assessment designed to prevent consumers from becoming sensitized to fragrance ingredients, and is also working on allergy testing.
But because of a loophole in U.S. law, manufacturers don't have to reveal the ingredients of anything labeled “fragrance.”
Judy hopes answers arrive sooner rather than later. She told us she actually has to use a respirator at times as she tries to avoid breathing in fragrance-filled air.
“People have no idea unless they actually experience it," she added.