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5 Common Summer Scents That Might Be Triggering Your Migraines


When I feel a debilitating migraine coming on, I can often guess what started it. Stress, poor sleep, bad posture, seasonal allergies, and staring at screens for too long are all common culprits. However, I recently realized that I have another migraine trigger: certain scents and smells.

If you, like me, find that the summer months bring on more migraines than usual, you might be sensitive to seasonal scents. These are a few common summer smells that may contribute to your pain:

  • Smoke. Cigar smoke, grill smoke, and firework smoke are the main offenders.
  • Strong candles. While those citronella candles may reduce the number of bug bites you get, they might also contribute to your migraines.
  • Nail polish. Getting ready for a backyard party? Be sure to paint your nails in a well-ventilated area.
  • Perfume. We all love to put on finishing touches like perfume in our bedrooms, but — as with nail polish — open the windows before spritzing.
  • Cleaning products. While bleach and other strong cleaners are perfect for making your party space spotless, those overpowering fumes can also make you more susceptible to migraines.

The ability of these scents to trigger migraines is backed by research. According to a 2014 study published in Cephalalgia, 70 percent of participants who suffered from migraines had odor triggers. Of these participants, 76 percent reacted to perfumes. (So, perfume may be one of the top offenders.) Other common trigger smells include paint, gasoline, and car exhaust.

The Importance of Knowing Your Migraine Triggers

If you understand the environmental factors that can trigger your migraines, you’ll have more control over your health. For example: You may identify certain perfumes or candles as harmful scents and be able to avoid them in most circumstances.

On the flip side, it’s also important to know what remedies work for your pain. Some smells may actually reduce the intensity of migraines, including peppermint oil and lavender oil. (A scientific review from the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine supports this.) Personally, I’ve found essential oil shower steamers to be very helpful — like the Cleverfy Aromatherapy Shower Steamers (Buy from Amazon, $17.99 for six). The combination of steam, water, and aromatherapy usually does the trick.

The takeaway? Pay attention to when you get migraines this summer, what was happening, and the potential triggers. Jot down notes if it’s helpful. You might just find that the problems (and the solutions) were right under your nose.

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