Over the past few months, there have been numerous articles in the Sound Off column regarding people wearing too much perfume and others being irritated or offended. I thought I would devote a few minutes to educate and maybe clear up some issues that could explain this.
I’d like to take a moment and interject a little history about perfume. The word perfume is a Latin term that means “through smoke” perfumes. Early glassed bottles of perfume were found at Egyptian excavation sites going back to 1000 BC. Other cultures including Mesopotamia and countries including Cypress were thought to be some of the earliest cultures using perfume. Perfume went into decline until the 16th century when it was popularized in France by Louis XV.
Early uses of perfume included incense to perfume rooms, furniture and clothing. Frankincense and myrrh (popularized in a Christmas song) were frequently used. In the 18th century, perfume was used for romance and seduction. Eau de cologne widely utilized in 18th century France helped spread its usage, because this formula reduced the cost that was involved in transporting the herbs and oils necessary to make perfume. In its early stages, perfume was placed in bath water, used as mouthwash and even put in certain foods to enhance taste.
Going forward to the 19th and 20th centuries, perfumes became less expensive, easily available and used by the masses — not just the elite and royalty. Today, there are tens of thousands of formulas and scents available for your body, your clothing, your house, your laundry and car, to name a few usages.
Now let’s talk a little bit about people being over powered by perfume. Overusage could be an attempt to mask a body odor because someone chooses not to bathe on a regular basis. Another possibility is problems with sense of smell (olfaction impairment). Millions of patients suffer from this condition due to temporary problems such as a cold or upper respiratory infection. Others suffer with more permanent problems including nonallergic rhinitis, trauma to the nose or head or surgery to the nose or head area that could injure cranial nerves involved with the sense of smell (4 out of the 12 major cranial nerves are involved in this process).
Odors are a part of everyday life. They can be pleasurable or they can be displeasing. The way it works is that the odorant substance gives off molecules. These molecules are transported through the nose and absorbed into the lining of the nose. There these molecules interact with receptors and a chemical reaction occurs.
This chemical reaction stimulates the olfactory nerve and is converted from a chemical reaction to electrical signal and goes to the brain. As we grow up, the brain becomes trained to recognize odors and understand them; therefore, experience and exposure trains the brain to like or dislike the odor besides the previously mentioned causes of impairment of sense of smell.
Aging affects all of our sense of smell. Starting from birth through the first year of life we lose nerve endings and receptor sites at a rate of 1%. That means when you become a senior like many of our residents here in Citrus County, you could potentially have impairment of your sense of smell exceeding 50 or 60%, and therefore have poor judgment on how much perfume you have to put on.
It is an easy problem to resolve. If you’re friends with that person, gently let them know about the issue. If you’re not and can leave the perfumed environment, do so.
Denis W. Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.