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If you’re sensitive to fragrances, a simple stroll past a department store perfume counter can quickly turn into an unbearable shopping experience.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 2 million people in the U.S. suffer from allergies to fragrances. And with more than 5,000 different fragrances included in everything from perfumes to carpet cleaners, the numbers are bound to increase. To make matters worse, many products contain combinations of chemicals, which often make it near impossible for sufferers to determine the source of irritation.

While it’s difficult to prevent someone near you from dousing themselves with a product that makes you sneeze and wheeze, there are a few strategies for controlling your environment, especially in the workplace.


* Move your workstation. If a coworker consistently wears fragrances that overwhelm your senses, try to find a work area that will seclude you from the scents.

* Bring a small portable fan. If moving your work location isn’t a possibility, consider bringing a portable fan to freshen the air in your personal space.

* Try alternative modes of communication. When face-to-face communication with a certain individual causes your headaches and allergies to flare up, try communicating with them via email, phone or text.

* Contemplate using an air purifier. Although this method might not fare so well in an open work environment, it could be very beneficial in your home or office.

* Be honest. Empower yourself to discuss your fragrance sensitivities with the person who uses them. In most cases, he or she will be compassionate and avoid using products that bother you.

And finally, if your sensitivity to fragrances increases over time, don’t suffer in silence. Consult with your primary care physician to see if an allergy test and/or medication are needed.

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