Woman applying perfume to her wrists

Strong Smells That Serve as Cluster Headache Triggers

Something unique about cluster headaches, compared to other types of headaches, is that certain triggers can bring on a cluster headache suddenly. Some of the most common types of cluster headache triggers are strong smells, which can pose challenges for a person’s cluster headache management strategy. Even smells that are pleasant to the average person can pose serious problems for people who have frequent headaches. This article will explore the connection between smells and headaches and identify specific smells that should be avoided by cluster headache sufferers. Keeping a headache diary can help individuals who are prone to headaches understand how smells negatively affect them and plan their days accordingly.

Cluster Headache Triggers: Understanding Smells and Headaches

The sense of smell is very powerful in regards to how the body feels and what the mind thinks. Some researchers believe that strong odors can lead to headaches because they can cause blood vessels to swell and dilate. Meanwhile, other research suggests that smells can stimulate parts of the brain and nervous system that are related to where pain is felt in the head.
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Some people are allergic to strong odors, which can cause inflammation and other allergy symptoms in the body. Chemical ingredients are commonly used to create strong smells in household and beauty products, and these chemicals can have adverse reactions in the body and lead to headaches. These are some of the most common smells that are associated with cluster headache triggers:
  • Perfume
  • Cologne
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Air freshener
  • Scented candles
  • Paint fumes
  • Bleach
  • Gasoline
  • Nail polish and nail polish remover

Runny Nose and Perfume Headache

Runny nose is a common symptom of cluster headaches, and strong smells can also cause a runny nose. This is because odors can cause allergic reactions that have symptoms of runny nose, itchy eyes, and watery eyes. Since cluster headache pain is mostly felt on just one side of the head, one nostril may be more stuffy or runny than the other one.

Smells and Cluster Headache Management

For individuals prone to cluster headaches, it is best to avoid strong smells as much as possible at all times. For good cluster headache management, it is most important to avoid the types of smells listed above during an episode to avoid triggering an attack. For times when strong smells cannot be avoided and a perfume headache begins to form, it may help to carry organic peppermint or lavender essential oils to counter the negative smell and replace it with something soothing. For public situations with strong smells, it may help to carry a pair of flesh-colored nose plugs or place a scarf over the nose and mouth. At home, consider placing an air purifier in the bedroom or circulating stale air with a basic fan.

Tips for Keeping a Headache Diary

Since smells affect everyone differently, it is a good idea to keep a headache diary to keep track of what smells are most problematic. A simple journal with plenty of pages can be used as a headache diary to jot down a few notes in on a daily basis. In addition to trigger smells and headache information, other things to make note of include weather changes, water intake, foods eaten, alcohol consumed, and other bodily aches and pains felt. These little details can help make sense of effective cluster headache management and also help doctors properly diagnose and treat a condition of cluster headaches. Vanquish® is indicated for tension headaches. If you have a cluster headache, sinus headache, migraine headache or any other type of headache you may want to consult a doctor.
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