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IDIC: What is Fragrance Sensitivity?

Futuristic hallway with text reading "IDIC Blogs: What is Fragrance Sensitivity?"

Smells are ubiquitous, and there really isn’t a place with no scent. However, this can pose a problem for those with fragrance sensitivity. Fragrance sensitivity is also called chemical sensitivity, depending on the setting.

Fragrance sensitivity is more than disliking particular scents. It has physical symptoms like headache, wheezing, watery eyes, and more. In severe cases, it can even cause an anaphylactic reaction, which means the throat swells, and there is a risk to someone’s airway integrity. Fragrance sensitivity can also trigger other conditions like asthma.

People can develop fragrance sensitivity at any age. Some folks are born with it, and it improves over time. Meanwhile, others develop fragrance sensitivity, and it stays with them forever. There’s no way to know.

So, why are we talking about this? Unfortunately, scents are everywhere, including at venues we may work with for events. They are deliberately infused into the air to create a “signature” brand experience in hotels, added to restrooms to cover other scents, and more on top of what people wear on their person.

As conscious citizens, we need to be aware of it, and event planners must factor it in for every size event. If we do not, we could exclude our fellow Star Trek fans, and no one wants to do that deliberately.

First, it’s important to remember that while we may like the personal products we apply to ourselves, it could be someone else’s fragrance sensitivity trigger. Applying in moderation, so we don’t create a five-foot plus scent cloud around us, is a common courtesy. It may also be warranted to request people refrain from wearing personal scents entirely, depending on the event.

Another consideration for event planners is venue scents. The best practice is to inquire whether scents can be removed from panels and hotel rooms before settling on a specific venue. After all, we want as many people to participate as possible. While people can tell the hotel to remove the scents from their rooms independently, the venue rooms are under our control.

The ADA does cover fragrance sensitivity, and some people receive workplace accommodations for this disability. We can plan our events inclusively and work with people individually so everyone can participate, just like in Star Trek.

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