Perfumes and aftershaves pose hospital asthma risk say doctors

perfumeThink twice before you next go to visit a friend or relative in hospital whilst doused in your favourite smelly, for perfumes and aftershaves could be triggering asthma attacks and allergies within hospitals and should be banned from them, doctors have argued.

An estimated three in ten people claim they are sensitive to the artificial scents worn by those around them, with around 25% of asthmatics saying that their asthma condition was is worsened by being exposed to perfumes and aftershaves.

Researchers also state that more than half of asthma attacks are caused by various irritants such as cigarette smoke, cleaning fluids, perfumes and strong odours.

There are countless other things that can trigger an attack however, which include animal proteins like animal hair, cat saliva and house dust mites, household cleaners pollens (tree and grass pollens are the most common to affect asthma sufferers, changes to weather/temperature and fumes from traffic.

However, writing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, doctors Ken Flegel and James Martin have argued the case that perfumed products should be forbidden from inside of hospitals.

In their editorial, they said: “There are many practices that are acceptable outside hospitals – but not inside. One of these is the application of artificial scents to our bodies.

“While artificial scents are designed to make us more attractive, they may result in unintended harm to those who are vulnerable.

“There is emerging evidence that asthma in some cases is primarily aggravated by artificial scents.

“This is particularly concerning in hospitals, where vulnerable patients with asthma or other upper airway or skin sensitivities are concentrated.

“These patients may be involuntarily exposed to artificial scents from staff, other patients and visitors, resulting in worsening of their clinical condition.

“As patients, family members and emergency physicians will attest, the attacks can be quite sudden and serious. There is little justification for continuing to tolerate artificial scents in our hospitals.”

The researchers added that other workers have protection from artificial scents. They said: “The high prevalence of asthma and its adverse effects on health and productivity argue strongly for greater consideration of the air we breathe in our health care centres.

“Hospital environments free from artificial scents should become a uniform policy, promoting the safety of patients, staff and visitors alike.

“As education and promotion programmes have some effect on this practice, these programmes too ought to be part of our accreditation standards.

“Until this happens, individual hospitals must take the lead, particularly in spaces where susceptible patients wait.”

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