Monday July 16 2018

Am I allergic to perfume?


By Dr Vincent Karuhanga

When I use a lift, especially if there is someone who has used perfume, I sneeze, cough and feel like suffocating. Why and what drug can I use because I have resorted to using the stairs?

Dear Isaac,
Many people may sneeze or cough or get chest tightness when they use a lift with people wearing perfumes. This is due to an allergic condition triggered by various chemicals in perfumes. The best treatment for allergies is avoiding the triggers.

It is therefore good that you are avoiding lifts and using stairs which may be good exercise, especially nowadays when a number of Ugandans suffer from non-communicable diseases (including diabetes, cancers and hypertension) most related to fatty and sugary diets accompanied by lack of physical exercise.

Once one gets allergy symptoms in a lift, they may fear using the lift sometimes, taking the fear to obsessive limits. People may fear using lifts and feel like suffocating even when they are in the lifts alone, because they suffer from an anxiety disorder called Claustrophobia. This is an irrational fear of being closed in small spaces where there may be no escape. This may create panic-like attacks and feelings of suffocation but usually no sneezing or coughing. Claustrophobia may coexist with lift allergies.

Please visit your family doctor for help because you may one day need a lift in case you cannot use stairs. However, if you have to, an over the counter antihistamine taken at least an hour before using the lift may help.