How do I adapt to a pregnancy-induced heightened sense of smell?
December 17, 2005 5:20 PM   Subscribe

I am nine weeks pregnant. As a result, I now have a frightenly acute sense of smell which is wreaking havoc with my life - a bad scent will trigger nausea and even vomiting. Walking down a city street has become excruciating as I am very sensitive to the smells of cigarette smoke and perfume in particular. Suggestions?
posted by echolalia67 to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: When sewage used to flow through the gutters in major cities, people held 'nosegays' of flowers and herbs in front of their faces to cover up the smell. Is there something you could carry with you that has a strong yet not nausea-inducing smell? I remember once being trapped on a bus in which some poor fellow had vomited in the back row. I ended up peeling a fresh orange and squeezing the peel in front of my face every few minutes. It worked surprisingly well.
posted by expialidocious at 5:55 PM on December 17, 2005

Totally pulling this out of my ass, but could you dab a little Vicks VapoRub under your nose or at the edge of your nostrils? I have some vague notion that medical examiners and other "dealing with dead bodies" people use that method.

Alternatively, noseplugs, wherever fine swimming supplies are sold.
posted by Gator at 6:01 PM on December 17, 2005

Surgical or paint mask?
posted by tetsuo at 6:12 PM on December 17, 2005

I too was going to suggest some Vicks or Tiger Balm on the upper lip. Take a page from the book of Quincy.

However, the thing that you put on your lip to mask the smell has got to be something that you can stand smelling. If your heightened sense of smell causes that thing to be just as putrid as the other odors in your daily life then that's not going to work. Maybe you could find something else that has a sharp enough smell to mask the odor, but is still tolerable.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:23 PM on December 17, 2005

cotton balls in your nostrils?
posted by delmoi at 6:27 PM on December 17, 2005

My mother is chemically sensitive and she uses a bicycle mask (not sure if that's the exact word) - you can get them at cycle shops, they're used by city cyclists to filter out pollutants.
posted by Gortuk at 6:41 PM on December 17, 2005

My wife is pregnant and says that this may go away in a few weeks. She had this really bad for the first trimester but it diminished after that.
posted by probablysteve at 6:45 PM on December 17, 2005

Best answer: Speaking as someone who suffered violently from "morning" sickness (more like "all day, every day, unrelenting sickness") and had similar problems with smell (soap was the one that got me in particular, go figure), I'd have to disagree with everyone saying to mask the smell, because you're just going to end up hating the new smell as much as the old, no matter how nice it seems in the beginning.

I don't have much else to offer in the way of advice stemming from my own experience. Nothing ever helped me at all. The only true cure for this type of thing is time. It may seem terribly far off, but you WILL feel better and this WILL pass. You are nine weeks now and you are through most of it, it should start to taper off or even completely disappear in the next month or so. Some people continue to have this throughout their pregnancies but from what I understand it is not very common for it to go the full nine. Every pregnancy is wildly different, even for the same woman, so be prepared to deal with anything.

If you ever need to talk about it, my email is in my profile; I know how difficult this can be.
posted by Emperor Yamamoto's Eggs at 6:52 PM on December 17, 2005

Yes--this should end by the first trimester.
posted by gramcracker at 7:13 PM on December 17, 2005

She may not have the luxury of staying home and waiting it out, though.
posted by Gator at 7:22 PM on December 17, 2005

Think twice about the vicks idea, it is a strong covering smell but it also serves to open your sinuses and so leaves you even more susceptible to odors. I was advised against it by an ME.
posted by InkaLomax at 8:22 PM on December 17, 2005

Totally sympathize as my "bionic nose" has only now become less of a bother in the 8th month. It only triggered the nausea reaction for me, though, through the 14th week. The only thing that helped me (and I'm going to bet that it is different for everyone) was a supply of lemon scented handwipes to wipe my hands and face, and lots and lots of ginger--tea, candy, real gingerale. That killed the nausea super quick for me.

On the other hand, everyone kept telling me that all of that nausea was a symptom of a healthy pregnancy. Not that I was comforted by that when I was gacking at all hours of the day. Take good care...
posted by jeanmari at 8:51 PM on December 17, 2005

Oh, and for the heartburn stage (that will come later on), I was just turned on to Papaya enzymes which are AWESOME. So, just file that one away for future reference. They were available in the vitamin aisle of the local grocery. Tums weren't doing it for me...
posted by jeanmari at 8:53 PM on December 17, 2005

Also, eat frequent small meals. Too big, and they would just sit in the stomach for like 12 hours and eventually get rejected. Wait too long, and get low blood sugar and nausea from an empty stomach. Simple carbs worked well (this is secondhand esperience from my wife).

It *is* true that it's a sign of a healthy pregnancy. The nausea is caused by high levels of the hormones, although obviously there are healthy pregnancies with less morning sickness.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2005

Origins makes this stuff called Peace of Mind -- it's an aromatherapy cream you rub on your pusle points for stress relief, but it's also worked great for me in killing motion sickness if I dab a little under my nostrils.

Like others have said, though, masking one smell with another has its own potential pitfalls.
posted by damn yankee at 8:58 PM on December 17, 2005

I carried a baggie of sliced lemons. Sniffing them helped clear my nose of perfume scents and coffee smells (fresh was bad, stale caused vomiting), which were the only odors that bothered me, and are STILL bothering me. And I'm due in two days. I never started associating lemons with perfumes or coffee. In addition, adding a slice of the lemon to a glass of water really helped my nausea.
posted by peep at 9:26 PM on December 17, 2005

Interesting, peep, as coffee is one of those scents that is supposed to reactivate your sense of smell. Candle shops sometimes have coffee beans for you to sniff occasionally so you can continue to sample their scents.
I was going to suggest carrying some coffee beans to sniff if you catch a whiff of something that is setting you off, but it won't work if coffee is something that will set you off.
Perhaps some flavorful candies, Altoids or something like that, when you go out in public would help cut down on things?
posted by Iamtherealme at 10:40 PM on December 17, 2005

For me, trying to hide the smell with another smell would have just made me feel more ill. I had hyperemesis for all but the last four weeks of my pregnancy -- all day, every day. I found that the things that set me off changed over time. Even the smell of the soil in my yard would set me off! If I had to do it again, I would probably accept medication. However, I was really paranoid about Diclectin and wanted to safeguard my baby. If this is still bothering you in three weeks, talk to your doctor. In the meantime, try to avoid the smells. I know that's difficult, but it's the only thing that worked for me. Take comfort in knowing that women who have a lot of morning sickness tend to have a placenta that's developing really well. That's what I was told, anyway.
posted by acoutu at 2:13 AM on December 18, 2005

(off topic) but peep! Good luck and congrats! What a great solstice-related-holiday-of-your-choice present!
posted by pomegranate at 5:23 AM on December 18, 2005

I found chewing ginger candy or super-mint gum helped with strong smell triggers - sort of "drowning out" the other smells. I also carried votive candles and small purse-sized bottles of scented oil - citrus smells worked best - and would sniff them as necessary; put chapstick on and dab a bit of the oil under my nostrils.

I second/third using ginger, citrus, and frequent small meals to help nausea. I used Sea Bands for car trips, they're little stretchy wristbands with plastic nubs for pressure points on your wrists, and that helped too.

Good luck! I found the smell sensitivity did get better after the first term but it never completely went away. Cigarette smoke was a big trigger for me, and I had been a smoker myself before I got pregnant, so I found that surprising.
posted by Melinika at 8:25 AM on December 18, 2005

I am not pregnant, but hyper sensitive to smells (not allergic, just grossed out a lot) and I hope this doesn't sound stupid but.....just don't breathe thru your nose when you're outside.

I cannot recall the last time I breathed thru my nose in a public restroom, subway station, bus, 5th Ave in NYC, etc. It's not very hard to do, and there's no lemon peel to worry about.

Good luck!
posted by tristeza at 8:33 AM on December 18, 2005

I rely on charcoal-filter masks to help me endure the fragrances some people wear at work.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:46 AM on December 18, 2005

When I was pregnant and had this all-day nausea and bionic nose during the first timester, the only trick that helped was doing the Vicks VapoRub thing. It really did make it manageable -- and I live in a major, stinky city.
posted by youarejustalittleant at 9:01 AM on December 18, 2005

Just had my baby 6 weeks ago.

I carried a lemon around in my purse -- scrape the skin a bit wtih a fingernail to release a bit of the fragrant oil, and sniff. Best trick ever.

Ugh. I remember the smell of the lettuce in the grocery store would make me vomit. Carry airplane sickness bags if you can get them....
posted by mdiskin at 12:22 PM on December 18, 2005

1st: congrats! 2nd: it will go away, eventually. 3rd if all the excellent suggestions mentioned before won't work, try buying a kafir lime (scroll down for three ugly green things). You can buy them at an asian or thai store. Scratch the skin and hold it under your nose. It made me survive the Bangkok fumes during rush hour in summertime. The smell is a strange but wonderful bitter/citrus aroma. Possible downsides: this could be just another smell that makes you sick. Also you look like you're running around with a giant booger hanging from your nose.
posted by ouke at 1:21 PM on December 18, 2005

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