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The Curse of a Nose Made Sensitive By Migraine

A sensitive sniffer comes in handy to search the basement for presents left behind by the neighborhood cat, who must have slipped in while Hart was taking out the trash. Since one of my migraine symptoms is sensitivity to smell, I’m a natural for the task. Ew.

The cat had to leave more than one gift in the 18 hours he spent there. Right? I’m trolling around our disaster of a basement, trying to find where it might be. The nooks and crannies and junk piled high make the space a cat’s dream. They also prevent me from getting close enough to sniff out the remaining presents.

Some believe that migraineurs always have a keen sense of smell, whether they have a migraine or not. It seems that this belief is held more by patients than researchers. More common is that right before or during a migraine, people have a heightened sense of smell. This could be related to smells being a migraine trigger for many of us. Olfactory hallucinations right before or during a migraine is the idea best supported by research. These tend to be bad smells, like garbage or dog messes.

(An interesting aside: Migraineurs and other people with headache, particularly those who have odor triggers may develop a fear of or aversion to certain smells, called osmophobia.)

Unfortunately, my migraine has worsened. It will be difficult to tell if I smell real odors better or am hallucinating them. In any case, my scent-sleuthing skills will ensure that I experience all the smells a basement has to offer.

I can’t find good online resources about migraine and smell. If you have any information or want to share your experience with smell, please leave a comment.

78 Responses to The Curse of a Nose Made Sensitive By Migraine

  1. Laura says:

    Smell is everywhere to me. I tend to try and know exactly where the candle aisle is in stores, just so I can avoid it. Many times I find it isn’t that it is one particular scent, but just overstimulation from many.

    Aversion to the smell of cooking eggs. Oh yeah.

    I’m in support of the theory that migraineurs are oversensitive to things all the time. I always smell things before others. I always hear things before others. When I was helping care for my friend’s child, I was the walking baby monitor.

  2. Mom Shorty says:

    ……..or, it could just be heredity. I’ve never had migraines but I do have a very acute sense of smell…..

    Love,
    Mom Shorty

  3. Christy says:

    I have a very poor sense of smell, but I start imagining that I smell things right before a migraine. In fact, for years I thought I had invented the term “olfactory hallucinations” because I had never actually heard or read it anywhere, but it seemed like a good description of what was happening to me. (I also thought it was a funny phrase, an overly-serious description of what I thought was a ridiculous situation: imaginary smells?) One of my most common phantom odors is Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup, something I ate a ton of as a child but can’t abide now.

  4. deborah says:

    My husband claims that I have the nose of a bloodhound. Interestingly enough, before a really bad migraine, if there is such a thing, as opposed to a good one, I will believe I have a really bad stink of foul body odor. And I’m insistant on it, constantly smelling myself (I know, gross) and telling my husband, “NO, I’m telling you, I stink!” He knows, I’m getting sick – with a migraine.

    I also can tell if a car ahead of us has a smoker in it, or if we’re approachin a dead skunk in the road long before anyone else does. And certain perfumes will trigger migraines. So, as far as the theory – don’t know either. Sorry.

    We migraineurs are just a strange bunch of nuts!

  5. Migraineur says:

    Ah, yes – when I was househunting in June, I came down with a migraine as we were touring the first property. I took an Imitrex, which worked pretty well on the pain but left me with some of the accessory symptoms. There was one house we walked into where I said, “There’s mold in the basement,” before we even opened the basement door. Sure enough, when the agent opened the basement door, an overwhelming smell of mold hit all three of us.

    The agent thinks I have some supernatural sixth sense now. I didn’t disabuse him of that notion.

  6. Amy says:

    I have been experiencing these “olfactory auras” or hallucinations since November of 2006 (after years of nothing of the sort). I’ve been a migraine sufferer for 11 years and have finally been able to whittle down my triggers (docs were no help, meds are no help…acupuncture finally helped a bit, but too expensive for me to continue for time being) down to HORMONES! I get about two headaches a month now–one with ovulation, one with my period. In Nov of last year, I saw a gynocologist who was more holistic-minded. She put me on bio-identical progesterone (I am estrogen dominant.). Well, since then, I’ve smelled like a burning smell, or cigarette smoke off and on for a few days before or after one of my hormonally-induced migraines. This seems to go against the whole 30-minute aura and then, BAM! a migraine appears, but these do correlate w/ my cycle’s hormonal highs and lows. (Incidentally, as soon as I first smelled that smell, I stopped the progesterone. Also, for some odd reason, in March, April, and May of this year, I completely was free of the olfactory stuff.)

    It’s the weirdest thing! Does anyone have anything similar to this revolving around their periods?

    • D Gray says:

      I know this is a really old post – but I have had the burning smell on and off for 4 years now. Had an EGG and MRI and both normal. Took notes when burning occured this last year as periods have been up and down. Burning smell comes a few day before or during my period and usually but not always with a migraine. Burning can lasts for 10 mins to hours and only when I am in my house. I also suffer with anxiety. Hope this helps someone.

  7. Amy says:

    Oops…I forgot to say that I, too, am a bloodhound. Starting in about 2000, I’ve noticed that I’m extremely sensitive to perfumes, body washes, car exhaust, hairsprays, paints, cleaning supplies, deoderants, toothpastes, candles…you name it, I can sniff it out/spot it a mile away, and it can possibly give me a migraine! I, too, have been called a “Human Bloodhound”!

  8. Marcia says:

    Migraine runs in my family. Smells can trigger my migraine and my Mum’s and make them worse. My Mum, myself and my sister and her daughter all have exceptional senses of smell, even though my sister and her daughter do not suffer from migraine. So I believe it is in the migraine genes. They got it but fortunately without the migraine.

  9. LVMYENJ says:

    I was googling information on sensitive noses and found this. I can relate to most everyone’s comments. My coworkers seem to think I am crazy because I can smell lettuce. I thought that I was alone out here. I am also a migraine sufferer and it was brought to my attention by a family member that it seemed for the most part, that my migraines were too, triggered by smells. I am not certain which smells at this time, but anything that is just way too strong, cologne, cigarette smoke, candles, etc. It’s nice to know that I am not in a world alone with a sensitive nose.

  10. Dharmadog says:

    I have the worst sense of smell in creation. When the dog has a horrible messy accident, I always get the job of cleaning it up because I can’t smell it to save my soul. When I get a bad migraine, on the other hand, I smell SOAP. I smell the soap I use to wash my hands. I smell the laundry detergent on my clothes. I smell the shampoo on my hair. It makes me literally INSANE. I am in horrible pain and I am assaulted by this oppressive soap smell. Any ideas about what to do? (other than spending hours naked in the shower compulsively trying to wash off every molecule of soap that ever touched my body……..which feels a little psychotic).

  11. Debbie says:

    I’ve been experiencing something I can only describe as a continuous chemical smell. It started about a month ago, The first time I smelled it I my husband was frying bacon on griddle and it smelled like maybe there was a soap residue on the griddle. It’s several weeks later now and the smell seems to stay with me wherever I go. I’m more aware of it sometimes than at others. Nobody else seems to be able to smell it. The only thing I can link it to timewise is the pest company that we use started spraying my yard for weeds. This coincided with my husband coming home from a trip and a day later I smelled that smell. I can only describe as chemical. It doesn’t remind me of anything I’ve smelled before but I find it irritating especially because I’m the only one that can smell it. I’m starting to feel a little nutty.

    ******
    Wow, that’s really strange. An ENT may be your best bet for finding out what’s going on. I wish you the best of luck!

    Kerrie

  12. Howard says:

    Ok!you woman aren’t alone,
    I to have the curse of the scent induced migraine .Detergent isles at supermarkets,candles and soaps at gift shops.Besides the cigarette smoke and car exhaust fumes.
    The most unfortunate trigger are the scents and fragrances from my wife’s beauty products and perfumes.Often she’ll get a new product or the supplier will change the scent and she will have to stop using the offenders.
    Strangely some fragrances evoke no reaction,
    i had my first migraine at the age of 12 triggered by disturbed house dust and this will still trigger a mig 35 years later.

  13. Erin B. says:

    I have on and off smells of smoke like cigarette smoke, it is driving me crazy!!! I sometimes feel like I am going to get sick. I have had this for
    about 2 years. I don’t smoke, nor does my family.
    I just pray that it would just go away!

    Erin B. in Wa.

    honeycoffee@live.com

  14. Steve says:

    Looking over the responses, I seem to find an overwhelming number of women responding compared to men. Please count me as one of the many men who suffers from “smell sensitivity” as well as dust and any other contaminants in the atmosphere. I have a very understanding wife who helps by not wearing or using too much fragrance, although she has a hard time understanding how just a little lotion or shampoo or bug spray can have such an effect on me. She is from a culture where close friends and family hug a lot, and especially in church, and she comes home sometimes with smells absorbed by her hair or clothing. If you haven’t been “blessed” with such a strong sensitivity to smells, it’s hard to understand. I get migraines maybe once or twice a month, pretty much always triggered by something in the atmosphere; although weather has some impact–I’m more susceptible if there is a low pressure cell in the area which prevents the sinuses from draining properly. I have congestion every morning for which I take measures to alleviate. My migraines may last from one to three days. But I have a strong faith in Jesus, which gets me through. Or, if you want to think worldly, you gotta play what you’re dealt! Thanks!

  15. karan says:

    I too thought no one else experienced smells that were not there. I have told the doctors but they don’t say much. I have gotten migraines for about 19 years and the smell sensitivity for about 13 years. I smell wet paint, dog accidents, shall we say, throw up, that is very bad, and hard to get rid of.
    Also, candles, potpurri, perfume, anything vanilla scented as in shampoo or detergent, all kinds of strong scented detergents are triggers.
    Be wary of the dryer sheets also, anything that can leave an odor on your clothes and waft up to your nose is a possible scent trigger.
    Barometric pressure is another one. So is temperature change. There are hundreds of triggers/allergies among them. Genetics play a definite role. Neuroligists can often times help. I hope this helps someone.

  16. Lori says:

    I have recently been diagnoised with migraines unlike many of you who have lived with them for years and I am adjusting to this at the age of 40. My biggest issue that I have not been able to figure out is how to get rid of the smell of detergent in my house. All I can smell is Detergent & Fabric Softener. It seems that this is contributing to my headaches after much process of elimination –of course no one else in the house can even smell it, so I feel like I am crazy. Do any of the fragrence free options really have “no smell”? has anyone tried any of these or does anyone have any recommendations? Or has anyone used the room air purifiers to take smells out of rooms and are they worth the $. Thanks

  17. Frank says:

    i had my first migrane when i was 15. The smell of a barbeque really got to me and i would talk as if i couldn’t speak english very well. My brother always had frequent migranes but he doesn’t know why. My worst case to date is working at a deli. I had to throw out a garbage bag full of old chicken, and as the scent passed my face, it triggered a migrane. It was so bad i collapsed to the floor. Thankfully i am not the only one who has this ‘curse’.

  18. Chris H says:

    I am not a migraine sufferer but do have a very acute sense of smell and taste. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve been able to smell things way before others around me. I can distinguish between cat, dog and human urine from a distance. I can smell when women are menstruating no matter how “clean” they are. There are two smells that get to me though, MonoEthanolAmine and what ever chemical the sweet smell is around oil refineries~

  19. SarahNJ says:

    I’ve suffered from migraines and headaches in general since I was a toddler. While I don’t have a particularly keen sense of smell, I can smell mold (which I am allergic to) while those I’m with can’t (and think I’m crazy). Some scents like cigarettes and heavy perfume are big triggers for me while others, like gasoline, aren’t. Go figure. I also suffer from the not-so-fun olfactory aura. Way before a migraine, it’s not uncommon for me to be heard saying “Does anyone else smell poop?” while nervously checking the bottom of my shoes. When I find nothing there, I know a to get my Maxalt pill ready. My doctor said not many suffer from the scent aura and that most people who do smell really rotten things. Only one time did I ever smell “roasted chicken dinner,” which was a heck of a lot more pleasant than my usual phantom scent.

  20. Elsie Connolly says:

    I have suffered from migraines for nearly 50 years. In my teens and twenties they were so dibilitating that I had to close myself in a very dark room, take strong medication that knocked me out. All migraines started with a 15-20 minute warnig aura. Now for the last 10 years I have the olfactory hallucinations. At first I smelled dog poop, then it changed to fried chicken. Try smelling that for four days and you sure do not enjoy going by a KFC outlet any more. Lately I have been smelling shoe polish. It puts me off my food. While I am having this I have a mild form of migraine that hangs around for up to a week. It usually starts with tension in my neck. My doctor has never recommended any sort of relief. If any of you get relief from the smells by medication,could you let me know.

  21. Stephanie says:

    My symptoms are very much like Amy’s (from a 2007 post). Migraine’s are very much tied to my period and have been for about twenty years. Perfumes are a big trigger for me, but cigarette smoke is also. I didn’t know about hallucinatory smell but I do often think I can smell cigarette smoke when no one in our house smokes. Does anyone notice a seasonal element? I see more acute and an increased number of headaches in the spring. Acupuncture is the only thing that has helped. My headaches are much decreased now and I generally only get really severe headaches in the spring.

  22. Agnes says:

    After complaining to my doctor that I smell things like burning plastic, then feel nauseous and get this funny, aching tension in my neck and lower part of my head, my doctor figured that I have migraines triggered by smell. Usually I smell oil or plastic- like in the car, especially during the summer, and I get that pain right away. Can migraines not include headaches and be only felt in the neck area? I’d always thought that migraines would just feel like really bad headaches, and was doing some research on it when I found this website.

  23. Amanda says:

    I have recently just put all of the pieces together over months of suffering. I get menstral migraines and have an extremely annoying hallucinatory smell along with this. It is the smell of cigarettes. I grew up in a home with parents that smoked so I am very familiar with the smell which differs from smelling smoke on someone’s clothes. I can’t get my point across to most. It is so distinct that it triggers shortened breaths just like it did when my parents smoked around me. It is so bizzare!! and I can’t stand the smell of cigarettes making it even more obnoxious. I seem to get this smell for days even after my period has begun and the headache has calmed. Finally I don’t feel crazy…thought it was a brain tumor for a while.

  24. Micki says:

    Reading these posts is a true eye opener for me. Ive suffered from migraines for as long as I can remember. And Ive always had a super heightened sense of smell. I thought that the migraines just made me extra sensitive to particular smells, but after reading up a bit Im thinking that maybe it the other way around and theyve been TRIGGERED by some smells. There are odd things that have happened with my sense of smell that are starting to make sense now. I couldnt eat a recent dinner my husband made because I swore it smelled like soap. I was so certain that soap somehow got mixed in that I almost had him convinced he could smell it. Sometimes when I drink water I swear it smells ‘earthy’, like the waters been filtered through soil. I recently had an epsiode where I couldnt drink water because it smelled like pure rubbing alcahol. I remember as a kid swearing I could smell herbs or spices of some kind in my bedroom.
    Im guessing that I may have been having olfactory hallucinaions of some kind, and probably for a good portion of my life.
    Now if I could only figure out how to make this new found info work for me!

  25. Rebecca says:

    I have always had allergies, and headaches. Once puberty set in, I had menstrual migraines. I also suffer with barometric pressure headaches (which causes pain and swelling in my ears, sometimes hearing loss).
    Certain smells can trigger a migraine, or a migraine can trigger certain smells. It really feels like a no win situation. Right now I have a baking job, and I had to leave early from wotk today because of a migraine. The usual pleasant scent of baking bread and muffins, turned into something akin to burnt garbage. It made me dizzy and nauseas…with dry heaving.
    That is a regular smell for me…something good that smells to me like garbage or that it’s rotting.
    If I can get the food into my mouth, even then it can taste bad as well. I have made other people taste my food to see if it’s just me (it’s always just me).

    I have read that people with sinus problems can often have phantom smells. Usually something chemical, like bleach or ammonia.

    I take allergy pills and decongestants regularly. I haven’t been too lucky with any prescribed migraine medications. I usually just take some benadryl so I can try to sleep it off. I was put on birth control to help get my menstrual migraines in check. Now instead of a week of being in misery, it lasts one day.

  26. Michelle says:

    I’m so glad I’ve found this thread. Now I can show my husband that I’m not making this stuff up. I to am called a “Bloodhound” by everyone. If I get a present I can even tell you what store it came from. That I guess would be the funny part and the only time I don’t get migraines. Perfumes I think are the worst, but it does seem to be ANYTHING other than fruity or food smells. My husband is great though. He’s tried to find everything he can that is unscented for him. But like Micki said earlier, I’ve had the same instances where I would swear that there was dishwashing liquid still in the pans as we were cooking dinner…lol. It was whatever you were cooking mixed with hot soap. No matter how many times he would rinse it out for me, I still smelled it. And of course, ONLY me. I’ve dealth with the migraines since I was about 13, but the strong sense of smell has really gotten bad the last 10 years. The migraines have also gotten worse. Now it’s all through my head AND my neck. I know I should probably go to the doctor, I just don’t want to be put on medication. The last I heard, migraine medication made you sleepy. Most of my headaches occur at work so that is not an option. Some days I work around chemicals so I pretty much know the days I’ll have ’em for sure. I can usually take a BC powder and lay my head down and it eventually goes away. Since this seems like the best place to ask, has anyone tried anything that doesn’t make you sleepy?

  27. Michelle says:

    Wow. This is the jackpot so far. I am 14 and just recently had been getting headaches and during class i just couldnt do anything and went to a doctor. i was told i had a migraine and that was why i couldnt move. dont think it is triggered by smell but just today it was like my smell just increased by 10. it started getting me headaches. i mean, i could smell the scent of my cat from the other side of the house!and it was as if she was right in front of me and i was sniffing her fur. sure that happened a long time ago too, but that was because i was hunting down a kitty. my hearing hasnt changed but then again i have always had really sharp hearing. anyone got any good info as to if my new migraines is the cause?

  28. Elizabeth says:

    I am so happy I found this. I have had migraines for 8 years now, but over the last 4.5 years my sense of smell has gone crazy. I have to wear a mask when I go in a mall or anywhere with candles really. It’s so painful. I have tried meds and vitamins… nothing has even decreased it a little. I am going to try acupuncture as soon as I can afford it, but I am not holding out a lot of hope. If anyone has any other suggestions I would be up to try anything.

  29. Jono says:

    Saved me a trip to a doctor….Was at a car show yesterday with fuel fumes and cig smoke. Six hours later I thought I could smell cig smoke, and put it down to earlier in the day. As I went to bed, I had mild visual aura (as I sometimes get with my migraines) woke up a couple of hours later with a banging headache. Had been worried phantom smoke smells were a sign of stroke – but now feel as though it is just another warning sign for an impending migrane.

  30. Chris says:

    I saw my neurologist today and told him about my sensitivity to smells and if it was related to my migraines and if there was anything he could do to help me.He had never heard of this from any of his patients and referred me to a ENT Dr.I have suffered migraines for 10 years and tried everything and nothing worked.My recent discovery of smells triggering my migraines was a wow moment for me,it could be this all along.I am thrilled to find this website.Looking back I realize I was weening myself away from pretty smelling lotion,shampoos and detergents (All detergent works great and has no smells) I read alittle of me in all the posts here.My husband swore I was crazy.Good luck with solutions everyone,i will post with any news from ENT Dr. as soon as I see one.

  31. Janet says:

    Wow, that is truly amazing. My weekend was spent managing (fairly successfully) a hormonal induced migraine. For a good week after I have to be very careful with intense smells. If I wake up in the morning and everything is noticeably smelly, then I know I will get a headache. It is my signal. Unpleasant smells, bad perfume, BO, fish can definitely trigger a migraine. Sometimes it instantly feels like someone has put a nail into my forehead. Now I know I am not crazy. My daughter is starting to show signs of the smell sensitivity as well, so did her Grandpa. I was the only one who understood what he was going through. May we all be on our last migraine!

  32. janice says:

    I found this website when I did a Google search on migraine sensitivity to smells.
    I don’t have super smell ability but I’m very sure common products I come into contact with do trigger my migraines.
    Perfumes, and shower gels are the most common triggers. I try to avoid new items but sometimes I just don’t know what the particular item triggered the headache.
    After reading these posts, I can recall days of smelling burning leaves, so that explains why there’s no burning leaves anywhere near me when I smell this.
    If I only knew what ingredient causes headaches, I’d be reading labels a lot.
    I’m a lifetime migraine sufferer by the way.

  33. KelliJ says:

    For the longest time I believed I was experiencing some “other” kind of headache, because instead of sensitivity to light or sound, which every migraine description mentions, I had smell sensitivity. I did web searches and read every headache pamphlet I could find. They all said the symptoms of migraine were: pulsing pain on one side of the head with sensitivity to light and sound. Tension headaches were: mild to moderate steady pain on both sides of the head. My headaches were sever pulsing pain on both sides with exreme smell sensitivity. I literally put cotton balls in my nose to keep from going crazy…and then complained about the smell of the sterile cottonballs. Even my doctor told me it wasn’t migraines. I was told it was high blood pressure, allergies, sinus infection, ear infection, hypoglycemia…you get the point. It is so good to see others who have the same symptoms, although I’m sorry for you all.

  34. Lauradids says:

    I too have been dealing with “smells” that only I seem to notice! And they are never nice smells – I too felt “gee, if I really have such terrible body oder – I sure hope someone in my family would tell me!” I recently saw a neurologist for awful headaches that wake me during the night. And EUREEKA today I made the connection! I smelled something nasty last night, and this morning was awakened with the headache! In reading the posts on this site, I can relate to many of them as if I wrote them myself. I find it comforting to read them, since I don’t know of anyone who has the same symptoms, and quite frankly, I thought I was just losing my mind! I will be trying Topomax and hopefully, will see good results. This site was a great find!

  35. Sue says:

    What a relief to find this. Like so many, I’ve encountered disbelief (sometimes derision) when I’ve had to admit my certainty that smells are among the migraine triggers I have. Perfumes,air fresheners (especially plug-ins and the sensor-triggered type),and candles are the hardest to ‘tough out’, as they’re so often encountered in friends’ homes. Like Janet (comment 31, above), I’ve noticed a heightened sense of smell on any given day probably foreshadows a migraine. In this ever more synthetically-perfumed world it’s hard to avoid trigger smells, and the preferred option of simply getting away from them isn’t always possible without seeming rude and/or eccentric. Reading these accounts has made me feel less isolated. Thanks and commiserations everyone! I get the feeling that migraine sufferers the world over get scant sympathy from people who themselves only ever experience the odd tension headache. This excellent site is a true haven.

  36. zz says:

    hello to all sufferers,

    I suffered and in some ways I still suffer from migraine headaches. I had several sinus and rhinoplasty surgeries which helped in some ways. I made some research about intranasal structures (contact point and pneumatized superior turbinate=responsible for smelling). There are very interesting articles.

    http://www.behinmd.com/scientific.html

    If your doctor don’t understands you find a better one. It does feel good to know you are not alone. Hope you all get better one day.

  37. Karen says:

    Been suffering migraines since my son was born 12 years ago. Today was a walloper with the visual aura (normal for me) very active with the usual silver fish and (new!) light green bubbles. Came on at work at around 0900. I think it was tied to substantial drop in barometric pressure in Virginia Beach area with onset of low pressure system and storms. Horribly heightened sense of smell – could between gas fumes of the cars driving in front of me ALL THE WAY HOME!!! Take prescription Imitrex normally with great success – today only moderate succes – had to take two pills in close succession. Have started to incorporate a raw food diet – will see if that will help. Any one else have a natural way of dealing with these migraine symptoms?
    Karen

  38. Wandie says:

    Omg! I taught I was going crazy but I’m not I can smell everythingm ahg!!!!! I get migranes like three times a week I am on topamax 200mg and guess what its not working. Its hard. The smell of the garbage is horrible that one sets my headache off.

  39. Anita says:

    I have suffered from migraines for the past 18 years. For a while they came so often that I spent more time in bed with a migraine than I did without. They were attributed to my hormones and I had a hysterectomy. They decreased in frequency and intensity greatly, but recently, they have been coming on more frequently. I have always had visual affects of migraines, but this morning I had my first experience with heightened sense of smell. I could not get the smell of urine and the smell of something burning out of my nose. Neither of these were actually present to my knowledge. I still had my normal sensitivity to light, but the smell thing kind of freaked me out. I had no idea this was even a migraine symptom until I started researching it on here. Why, after so many years, would I start experiencing scent hallucinations with my migraines?

  40. Karen says:

    Wow, I’m not the only one. When I have a migraine, even if I’ve pretty much fended it off with Imitrex, my sense of smell is so strong I swear I can smell the carpet (and I mean a clean carpet that normally has no smell). I can smell the wood that the kitchen table is made of. It’s crazy! And the smells of soaps and shampoos in the shower are just sickening to me.

  41. Elizabeth says:

    I’ve been having migraine every since I can remember. My husband always jokes that I could smell an ant fart in China. Yes, smells can sometimes trigger my migraine, especially the smell of deisel fuel. What I’ve noticed is that once I have the migraine, my sense of smell is intensified. Today as I suffer from the tailend of a migraine (4th day), I could smell the rubber on the back of our bathroom rug and it made me feel even sick to my stomach. What triggers my migraines are things like eating pizza and white bread. I wasn’t thinking and ate some chicken in a salad that had a breading. Now I’m paying for this mistake. *SIGHS* One doctor told me he thinks I have Candida and it is the cause of much of my trouble.

  42. marian mcgrath says:

    Wow,I loved reading through all of these comments because I thought I was going mad. one day while I was at the tail end of a monsterous migraine i walked through a shopping center and could smell every single person so strongly that it was making me feel ill. I now know that I smell things more intensely with a migraine , but now I am wondering what smells might be triggers ?…Does anyone know of “safe” household cleaning products or is it too individual ?

  43. Hugh Gourley says:

    Nice to find this site. my sense of smell became distorted in the early 1990’s, & more or less disappeared in 1996. My taste was deteriorating as well. Jump forward to now… Nov. 2010; slight headache for 2 days & WALLOP… exceptional sense of smell & taste…. everything smells & tastes at 10,000%. I can smell the chemicals in the wine; the cooking odours of every house around; I know what people have eaten within the last 2 hours or so…( I can smell it on them)!! All food & drink tastes weird the taste of potatoes actually shout at me & I cannot go near anything garlic or chilli. I can smell my dog’s food when I wake up in the bedroom… 4 doors in-between & a flight of stairs. What will happen next? Hugh

  44. Lauradids says:

    I guess I am fortunate, that odors do not trigger my headaches. I just smell things that no one else does! I tried taking Topomax, but it made me so cranky and irritable, that I stopped treatment all together. The good thing is that my headaches are no longer frequent. But I can still smell things that no one else notices!
    As for kitchen cleaners, I use all natural ones: Organic Kitchen or Citrasolv. They are usually scented with things like lavender or bergomot. They work nicely and smell nice. But I guess that too is a matter of preference. As sometimes for me, what smells nice to someone, can make me sick!

  45. Mary says:

    I am one of the fortunate ones. I had my first major migraine this week. I thought I had blown an aneurysm with dry heaves. Unfortunately my sense of smell has been left so heightened that I feel like I am going crazy. Food smells and for the most part tastes gross. I can smell every ones hair that walks by me in the store (and it usually smells dirty). I can tell you the spices that were used in certain dishes. My husband is tired of listening to me make gagging noises while he eats LOL. I have lost 5 pounds in the week since this started. Glad to know that there are others who are experiencing super sensitivity as well.

  46. delphine says:

    Great post, thank you so much for this and for commenting in so much detail. The neurologist I consulted asked about sensitivity to light. When I answered that no, but I had an awfully keen sense of smell before a migraine, he dismissed it. Some perfumes are worse than others, and some moments can make it worse ( ovulating, getting close to menstruating, or when atmospheric pressures change dramatically.) One thing that works for me: Peppermint essential oil. I just breathe in the smell directly from the bottle and it sort of settles everything for a while. Just be sure not to get it too close to your nose or you will feel a burn. At night, I leave the bottle open on my night table not too far from my head. Sometimes it clears the headache completely ( but most of the times it only brings me enough relief that I’m able to get some sleep. Good enough right?). Another thing that works: water. If I feel the headache “signals” early enough I start drinking lots and lots. Sometimes up to a gallon a day. It really, really helps, although I don’t know why and I couldn’t tell you how I found out. Another thing is sex. Yeah, so much for the migraine excuse. Do try and have sex when you have a migraine. For some people it makes things worse but for some the endorphine rush that comes with the climax is a huge help.Also, if you are a migraine sufferer you know how sometimes you can make your partner feel a little powerless and alienated. Not anything we’re doing in particular, but we just feel so shitty, right? Choosing that moment for a cuddle actually tells your partner that they are able to make you feel good ( I’m consciously avoiding the phrase make you feel better) and that you want them close. And lastly, watch your heart rate if you exercise. Try not to go over your cardio zone 1. I’m a 37 year old woman and my absolute max to give you an exampe is 160 ish. At 120 – 130 I’m in the no risk cardio zone. If I go over 170 ( A sprint in the spinning class) I am guaranteed to get a massive headache. On the contrary, I might be in a several day crisis where nothing seems to help, I end up packing my gym bag and going for an hour, hour and a half session at a pace where I would normally barely break a sweat, say 110. In the end of the session I feel so much relief, I really recommend giving it a try.
    I really hope these tips help you. Don’t lose hope 🙂

  47. Elena says:

    Delphine! Amazing, you sound like me talking! I have always had this feeling like my sinuses are burning as if I smell cigarettes or I smell the burning of perfume in my nose then BAM! …migraine. If I smell cigarette smoke, candles, perfumes of any sort or cleaning chemicals it is a guaranteed migraine. I have become fearful of most strong smells and tend to cover my nose with my shirt a lot just to avoid the triggers. Without a doubt if i don’t get a good night sleep or the weather changes from cold to warm, rainy to dry, etc I will also get a migraine. It’s really frustrating! What surprised me most with your post Delphine is the fact that you spoke of exercise and high heart rate causing a migraine and I finally don’t feel alone anymore! If I try to run, jog or ride a bike I will get the heaving burn in my chest and a deep-rooted migraine (if that makes any sense)
    Thank god I am naturally thin, if I had to rely on exercise to be thin I’d be in big trouble! I will be trying Yoga soon instead. Hopefully it will be helpful.

  48. Tom says:

    I am 62, never had a migraine problem until the past five years. It began with a smell problem; one day I had the smell of stale tobacco,thought it was from being an a waiting room at a repair shop, but it didn’t go away.I continued to have strange smells, sometimes burning plastic, sometimes the smell like an electrical fire, or soap on the stove. Saw ENT and there were no sinus problems, but they treated me anyway, with no change. I had no headaches.

    I eventually went to see a nasal clinic, and they tested my sense of smell, which was down fifty percent. I had noticed foods did not have much taste, I could not smell flowers. Instead, I would get these strange smells, somedays worse than others.They were not hallucinations, as they required me to sniff or breath through the nose to trigger the odor sensation.Somehow the odor receptors were activating and that was triggering a perception of a bad odor, and in addition, their overall ability to detect normal odors was poor.

    I had MRIs, many tests, all negative.In the past three years, I have noted that I develop a left eye ache, associated with an increase in the bad odor,and loud ringing in the ears.Usually I get whiffs of a bad odor first, usually a burning odor or a plastic odor, then a feeling of warmth or fullness around the left eye, then a slight ache, which develops into a nagging ache, with loud high pitched ringing in the ears, fatigue, and some irritability.

    They tried me on daily meds,first with Gabapentin, and the side effects, including waking up at night with strange feelings of panic, made me decide that taking strong neuro meds on a daily basis were not worth it.

    Now I take Imitrex if the aching develops, and it takes care of the headache very well, but the bad smell and the ringing in the ears still persists for a couple of days.

    The one thing I do miss is the loss of normal smell sensation all the time, so I can’t taste food very well, and I enjoy cooking. I find I have to use more spices to get any sort of taste.

    What I have learned in my visits to some world famous doctors in the area of migraine, is that they really don’t understand the basis for the loss of smell in my case, and they don’t have a good understanding yet of the bad smells associated with migraine. Unfortunately all they have to offer in most cases is putting you on long term meds such as Gabapentin or Topamax, and I have learned that I don’t want my brain medicates 24/7, altering all my neurotransmitter chemicals just to control the migraine. It was not worth it.

    I have come to accept that this is the way it is, that things could be worse. I still enjoy cooking, and have enough memory of how things should taste that I still enjoy food, but how this whole thing got started later in life for me is something that no doctor has been able to explain.

  49. Diane says:

    I’ve suffered with migraines for about 15 years. My triggers are low-pressure systems (I could easily become a weather forecaster); hormones; disruptions in my sleep or eating routines; and stress. I usually can tell a migraine is coming on because of being very sensitive to smells like my own body odor, shower gel, shampoos, hairspray, perfumes. Recently I have had a couple of olfactory hallucinations prior to a migraine coming on – one was the overwhelming smell of incense in a classroom; another one was the smell of bacon – that I discovered were not real. I am glad to know that others have experienced these symptoms too and that I am not crazy.

  50. Natalie says:

    I’ve always had a keen sense of smell (or I guess I think so, anyway) and my migraines–which can last for up to a week at a time–only serve to heighten my sensitivity to certain scents. Scent-sitivity…haha, I crack myself up 😛

    My senses are generally heightened for body-related odours, including breath, the smell of someone who’s been asleep and of course, B.O.

    It’s gotten to the point with these that hubby can’t ever again wear a certain type of deodorant and if he’s had granulated garlic at all I can tell for days, regardless of whether or not I have a migraines at the time. It’s odd that whole garlic or chopped preserved garlic do not have the same effect. At any rate, it all means a LOT of laundry to get the smell out of the sheets and blankets so I can sleep.

    I also seem to frequently hallucinate the smell of dog poo, and will run around the house sniffing with a grossed-out look on my face exclaiming, “Don’t you smell that?!” Hubby thinks I do this with the deodorant and garlic too, but those ones are real, dagnabit! 😛

    It’s good to know that this is happening to so many other people, though–even if it means a case of misery loving company!

  51. Summer S. Nicholas says:

    Thank goodness that I found this article and by extension you folk with whom I share this trigger! I have been sensitive to smells for nearly 8 years but only knew for 7.5.
    Nothing helps to alleviate my migraines except sleeping which doesn’t always work. I have migraines which last for weeks with varying intensity but my nose continues to seek out smells which just increase the pain. I can relate to nearly everyone who has posted before me ESP ‘Dharmadog'(including the bathing part). Even my own deodorant would send me into a spell of horrid headaches that turn into migraines.
    The saying that goes ‘misery likes company’ is so true as I am quite thankful to have ‘found’ other persons ‘like me’.
    Often I would end up with a scent on my hands only to wash them off with soap that has a scent, I felt so alone. I too have experienced a heighten sense of smell just before a migraine or any headache begins and unfortunately, this ‘ability’ stays till long after the pain has subsided. This heightened sense of smell has given me the ability to be able to ‘detect’ the type of laundry detergent used on the clothes an individual is wearing and even the fabric softener (not omitting the soap that they bathed with most recently). It feels like a curse most days.
    Once again, glad to know that I’m not the only one as I was lead the believe.
    Shon

  52. Debbie J says:

    I am a 44 year old female migraine suffer with perfume, air freshner as my main triggers. Monthly hormones are my other big trigger. It is great to find this site BUT rather depressing to find that after all these posts – nobody really has a solution. I also think I imagine perfume smells that arent there. Sometimes the smell triggers a migraine and sometimes the migraine triggers the smell. All in all – we are in a no win situation. Yep I have a migraine right now, which is probably why I am feeling so irritable and I am sure you can gather that from the tone of this post.
    Good luck to all of us!

  53. Rice says:

    i just started getting migraines in the last 5 years… at first i’d say my sense of smell was average, never noticed any particular sensitivity.

    after reading these comments it seems that smell for migraines is broken down into two categories:

    1. smells that aren’t real but associated with the migraine (burning plastic, smoke, etc)

    2. real smells that have become more apparent by overstimulation of the brain (or something)

    since my first migraine my nose has been getting keener every year. i can now smell flowers well down the street, smell if someone is menstruating close to me, smell other things that my friends don’t believe. worst of all is that my body smells like the last woman i had sex with for about 2 weeks. doesn’t matter how much i wash i can smell their exact smell on me.

    i’m sometimes put off of having sex just by kissing someone’s neck as i’m hypersensitive to their taste/smell and they simply REEK of body odor to me (and these are clean people)…

    the sensitive nose thing is VERY interesting (to me) but it’s also very annoying at times. also sensitive to lights, and especially MOTION… sometimes just watching wind blow leaves on a bunch of trees will make me sick – all that math and various motion going on.

    BTW – haven’t had ANY migraines with aura in 2 years… what i did to get rid of them:

    – Take VERY good care of my eyes, don’t let them get dry, don’t let my contacts stay in too long
    – Vitamin B2 (400mg) a day
    – Magnesium citrate (500mg a day) a MUST!
    – Krill Oil (2 gel caps daily)
    – Baby aspirin

    – Never let my brain get overstimulated (only stay in stores or mall for an hour, never too long drives, never amusement parks etc)

    Never come close to another one… If I stop the meds for even 24hrs (like if I forget to take them) I notice I start getting dizzy and MAV symptoms – when i move my fingers fast in front of my face i can see all the finger images (like a slow strobe) this let’s me know that my brain is getting oversensitive and i just retreat to a dark place to sleep for awhile..

    good luck.

  54. Michelle says:

    I have had migraines for over 18 years and have had a sensitivity to smell for the past 10 years. I am happy to see that I am not alone or crazy. It is so difficult when everyone thinks you are exaggerating. I have been suffering at my workplace and a workplace accommodation was put into effect, asking my co-workers to not wear fragrances. However, there are some who will not comply. Therefore, I am suffering on a daily basis with headaches, inflamed sinuses, and nausea. It is so miserable to be subjected to this everyday and feeling bad all the time.

  55. Deb says:

    I can’t believe I’m not the only one with this. I just came from er yesterday, my fourth trip in two weeks and barely avoided going to a mental hospital thanks to the nerve doctors. The psychiatrist was really gung ho on hospitalizing me as a schizophrenic because I smell dog poo and smoke and chemicals and acetone. Well thank you all for telling your experiences. I am a newly diagnosed migraine sufferrer and don’t understand how all of this is works yet. I have called the police because of all the smells and the fire dept folks did not like my attempts to block out the smells by covering up areas where I think the smells come into the house. Well I thank you all for helping me understand my condition better.

  56. Mary says:

    November 4, 2011 @ 12:58am

    Thank God. I am not going crazy.Like Debbie, I have been experiencing these terrible chemical smells and they are driving me nuts because no one else smells them but me. I have been tempting to call for someone to check my home for any kind of chemical smell.The only thing I can link it to is excess stress I have been experiencing lately, because it started about six weeks ago when I lost my job. I am so glad I found this site, so now my family will believe me and know that I am not going crazy.

  57. Dawn Thomas says:

    I too suffer from migraines. Many of them are brought on by smells. The biggest are coffee, smoke, and purfumes. The really annoying thing is it is really hard to avoid the smell of coffee. Our church serves coffee so I cannot even go to church without fear of getting a migraine. Has anyone found anything that can prevent a person from smelling? I ordered a nasal filter that goes in the nose and it does not work and it too hard. There are nasal screens that I am going to try next. I tried rubbing vicks in my nose and sniffing on vicks stick…but I was literally having to sniff it like 10 or more times in church and then I finally just had to leave. I am getting really annoyed! I am not sure if it will help but I am going to be starting a gluten free diet. I hope it helps overall with my migraines.

  58. Deborah says:

    I have suffered with classic Migraine for over 35 years…I have an Aunt who gets them but I also injuries my neck and was in a stressful situation when they first appeared. Over the years I have lost my ability to smell most things. My sense of smell is super human when I get a migraine. I also get sensitivity to light and noises, movement. someone opening a door while in the throes of an episode sends me violent vomitting session. I wish they could cure this ..as the older I get the worst the attacks and longer the recovery time. Last one I happened to take an iron pill during the post migraine phase and could not believe how much better I felt.

  59. Julie says:

    I’m so glad I found this site! I’ve always had an exceptional sense of smell (just ask my mother and/or my husband!). I’ve suffered from migraines as long as I can remember—I had the first one that I defined as a migraine when I was seven. My migraines are of two different types – hormonal or triggered by smell. I don’t ever have scent hallucinations, but I know when something that normally smells good to me (like brewing coffee or soap) starts smelling nauseating, I’m in for a migraine. My hormonal migraines dissipated around the time I turned 40, but about two years ago, they returned with a vengeance, most likely because I’m in perimenopause. However, the smell-induced migraines have always been there. No doctor I have ever seen about migraines actually confirmed that sensitivity to smell can trigger a migraine. Well, I CAN confirm it, as can most of you! In fact, the smell-triggered migraines can be much more intense than the hormonal ones for me. Maxalt is my friend at times like those…as soon as I feel the first signs of scent-induced nausea, I take a tablet. It works pretty well.

  60. Susan says:

    My over sensitivity to odors has been a struggle. I can smell cigars and pipes even when someone is smoking one far away OUTSIDE, the smell of flowers make me sick, I have to wait outside when I go to get new tires – the smell of rubber in the store is overwhelming. I avoid the laundry/soap aisle at the grocery store, and hold my breath when I walk by perfume counters. I was briefly living with someone who started doing cocaine. I could actually smell it, he would smell metallic. He would try to hide his stash but I could go through the house and sniff it out like a bloodhound. I also get smell hallucinations, usually of gasoline. That’s the worst because I’m so nauseous from the migraine and the smell makes it worse but there’s no way to get away from it because it only in my head. My migraines were under good control on anti seizure meds for over 12 years but 2 years ago they went haywire again. The doctor did blood tests and my hormone levels are all over the place, I’ve started peri menopause. I only hope after menopause they go away all together like my mother’s did…

  61. krista says:

    For years now I’ve had a migraine almost everyday. Recently I realized just a quick sniff of bleach even from across the room triggered it. I too smell things no one else can, like lettuce, everyone’s body odor, my carpets, mold, water even. I thought I was loosing it, its great to know I’m not the only one. Now what do I do about it?!! Its beginning to effect my marriage, work, family, social life.

  62. Marylou says:

    Ok, then . . . I’m not a freak!! I grew up suffering migraines, can’t remember a time when they didn’t control my life. Missed a lot of school as a youngster, learned to endure the dismissive diagnosis of any and all doctors telling me “it was all in my head”, and couldn’t be migraine as the very definition of the term meant “on one side of the brain”. I lived on painkillers and muscle relaxants for decades, did the 2-week in-patient migraine study group at Cedars of Lebanon in Miami, getting more frustrated than informed. They pushed Biofeedback therapy, but it hurt too much to concentrate for it to work. They finally put me on anti-depressants to control the serotonin levels, but the side effects were more than I could or would deal with, so I quit them after 2 months. The one thing I did learn there was to become my own migraine sleuth. Eventually, I learned that the list of allergies I’d amassed was unending. Shots didn’t work as I developed a hypersensitive reaction (cysts) at every site of injection. In addition, I cannot bend over with a migraine or I’d get a rush and the pain would become intolerable. Like many of you, I can smell smoke in passing cars, on individuals across a crowded room, and cannot enter a house where I detect mold or mildew before the door is even opened.

    I craved chocolate and protein think double dark chocolate and rare steak) when experiencing a migraine, so I gave my body what it wanted and ignored all the advice of the experts, avoiding only the items I found personal triggers for me. I soon noticed the collation between impending storms (atmospheric changes) and my migraine. Then I narrowed it down to the fact that whenever the barometric pressure dropped below 30, even by just a fraction, it would trigger a migraine, which I deduced was a reaction to the fluid build up in my sinuses, expanding like tidal waters. I’ve validated this with others since, so I know I’m not alone. Also, the build up of bodily gas and inability to purge it would cause migraine. The immediate relief of pressure induced migraine pain lessened with every belch I could produce from drinking a carbonated drink like ginger ale or coke. This, too, I’ve validated with others. Try it!

    Then came Imitrex, a godsend! The shots were the only thing that actually stopped a migraine if I caught it immediately. But at the then cost of $75 a shot, I couldn’t afford to wait 15 minutes and take a second shot if the first one didn’t work, so I tried the pills and they didn’t work at all. Age and post menopause won the battle for me eventually. PTL! At 71, I’m almost migraine free and when I do start to get the occasional migraine, I can head it off by quickly taking OTC generic “aspirin” (2 migraine formula tablets with 500 mg’s aspirin with caffeine), downed with a Coke Cola (Mexican, made with real sugar, no artificial sweeteners), no chemical taste, and it’s gone in 20 minutes or less.

    Here’s my take on the issue: I suspect some have put the cart before the horse, so to speak. I can only speak from my own experience, but I am convinced that it is not the migraine that made the nose sensitive, but rather the fact that “Migraineurs” (love the name) are a peculiar breed who were just born with a heightened acute sensitivity to any or all of the 5 senses (olfactory senses in particular) which in response to the least provocation, trigger a migraine.

    I started noticing a hypersensitivity to all senses as a child, but doctors dismissed that, too. Yet I had perfect vision, remarkable acuity in hearing, touch and smell that family noticed as well. I cannot drink anything that comes in a can, as I taste the metal in the contents, and I found that strawberries taste like onions. I suspect that it comes from having picked wild strawberries in a field that also had an abundance of wild onions growing alongside the strawberries. Since I could also taste the onions, which to me overpowered the strawberries, my brain became conditioned to associate all strawberries (even those grown organically, with strawberries. (Needless to say, strawberry shortcake was never a favorite of mine.) Therefore, I’ve concluded that it is more a result of a malfunction of the olfactory globe (central cortex) and more of a phantom effect. But it’s the way the brain interprets the signal that determines the outcome of the triggers it releases . . . if my brain tells me it’s onions, I’ll taste onions.

    I stopped telling others (though my family knew) that I regularly got tiny shocks or tingling electrical currents from touching any appliance and the slightest humming of electrical current from motors (like fans) that no one else could perceive, become an irritant (like so many other things). Basically I’ve decided that living with migraine tends to make one very irritable, intolerant and in general, difficult to live with. So after all these years of trying to “blend”, while raising a family and struggling with 2 failed marriages and a score of relationships, I’m finally at peace living alone and loving it. There is life after migraine, but I conclude that it’s best lived alone. : )

  63. Sarah says:

    I know exactly where you are coming from. Chemical smells are by far my biggest migraine trigger. I even had to stop cosmetology school over the perm solution. This morning my cat left a surprise on my couch and it was a real stench. I started to clean it up and then the light cleanser started getting to me, even with the window down. And it kept getting worse as I went out to eat with my mom, determined not to let it win. Funny thing about migraines is when you have them they are in control. Quickly learned this fact as I got sick at a nice chinese restaurant. Needless to say our night was over and yet I was still nauseous for hours after. I never actually got one that bad before. So I get how stenches and certain odors cause this. All my household cleaners and stuff got to be gentle. Not scented sweet to camouflage it because it is still real potent to me. But gentle like Dawn dish soap and Lysol wipes that don’t smell for hours after. Anyone know something that gentle for upholstery and I’m all ears! Not seeing much into this either. Maybe the more we spread there is such a thing of chemical smell triggering sometimes severe migraines more people will start coming around. And maybe in twenty years there will be a section in grocery stores for those of us with sensitive scents. Til then we will have on here. Thanks for posting this. Let’s me know I’m not the only one who suffers from this. Best wishes for you too!!

  64. Chris says:

    It has been so reassuring to find this page, and I have been calmed a lot by reading of the misery of migraine effects. My own began at ten and a half, and become very bad indeed in my forties, eventually beginning to calm in the mid-fifties- or so I thought. Like a predator, they became vestibular migraines, sneaky things that blinded my left eye after a rainbow had fluttered along the top, side and bottom of the eye itself, and then the headache hit – but not the three-days-in-darkness with a bucket and plea for absolutely no noise, not even a leaf blowing down the road.
    And here at 70, the chemical smells have begun! Both preceded a milder version of the original migraine, but the smell is so intense, that it is unbelievable that it cannot actually be happening.
    Family members have to promise they haven’t used any sort of chemical – I can’t liken it to anything I know, and you feel if you keep breathing it in, it will harm you in some way because of its intensity! Imitrex, inhaled, used to stop the 72-hour nightmares, but I can usually take Advil now and be fairly comfortable within a short period. Migraines are a horrible business, taking hours out of our lives, creating moments of wanting to die to be released from it all. Let us hope that some day, genetic manipulation can perhaps prove safe and effective, and save us hours of useless agony.

    • Chris, thanks for sharing your experience — sounds like it’s been quite a roller coaster! The ever-changing nature of migraine is so odd. Just when you think you have something figured out, there’s a new twist. I’m glad you have something that provides relief, but am sorry you still have such frequent migraine attacks.

      Take care,
      Kerrie

  65. C Johnson says:

    I really empathise with all the comments about candles. I find certain smells really cloying. Perfumes, colognes, and some spiced scents I find quite choking; like I’m inhaling dust. This isn’t only before I’m about to have a migraine, it’s the norm. I can’t stand it when people move too close to me, and smells that other people find soothing (like lavender) burn my nose.
    I just thought I was weird before I decided to google this today.

  66. Mary Lippold says:

    I know the above posts are kind of old, but I just saw them for the first time. I have had migraines since my late teens and I’m now 68. Post-menopause, but still needing prempro hormone replacement to deal with all the menopause symptoms (yes I still have them). I’ve tried getting off hormones (very SLOWLY each time) and ended up with all the bad symptoms back as well as withdrawal headaches that lasted for more than a week straight before I gave in and took the hormones again. I’ve tried many different preventatives, both meds and holistic. Nothing really worked. Maxalt works for the migraine pain for me almost every time. For the few times it doesn’t work, my dr has given me fiornal/codeine to take WITH the Maxalt (AFTER it doesn’t work).

    My triggers are chocolate and wine (the usual ones) as well as barometric pressure and hot, stuffy weather. The food/drink I can control, but the weather I can’t. I had never had any auras of any kind until about a year ago, when I started getting very sleepy just before a migraine hits. Not every time, just sometimes. So sleepy that when I was at home I just wanted to put my head down immediately. During about the past six months I have started having phantom smells. The smells started out only sometimes and I didn’t at first associate them with migraine, although I couldn’t think of any other connection. Lately, the phantom smells are constant and at first I too thought I was crazy or had a brain disorder or something. I’m very glad to see that this is “normal” for some migraine sufferers. we are all a strange kind of “normal”, aren’t we? Guess I’ll just have to put up with the smell; it seems like it’s a smell on my body all the time, as if I am personally exuding a sour smell, which nobody else can smell (thank goodness).

    Glad to see I am in good company, although I would wish and pray that all of us could be relieved of this. Hang in there, everyone. We will make it.

  67. Rebecca says:

    I find that any smell of mold is super heightened when I have a migraine. I had an awful migraine lastnight and finally had to toss my favorite temperapedic pillow because it smelt moldy to me, whereas my friend’s pillow smelt wonderful. Looking back, when I have a migraine, I can identify mold in anything. Before my headache, my pillow smelt like it might have a tiny bit of mold, but during, it’s all I could smell until tossing it on the other side of the room.

  68. Mary lippold says:

    Me too! Mold isn’t one of the things I smell, but there are many other smells I notice and which bother me enough to sometimes CAUSE a migraine. Often, nobody else can even smell what I’m smelling at all. I’ve had some smells that seem to be “rooted” deep in my nose or brain that I smell much of the time. “Phantom smells”. Just part of our “special-ness” as migraine people.

  69. I’m just recently making the connection between having olfactory hallucinations before migraines now that I’m 44, after having migraines my whole life. I am, also, the bloodhound – can smell when there is an animal accident anywhere in the house, mold, funky odors, etc. What I smell the most that no one else does is the smell of gingko berries – if you’ve ever gotten the treat, you know they are really foul – like putrid cat/dog poop.

    I seem to have this for a couple-few hours the day before the big migraine hits – and not every time I have a migraine. I’ve never noticed the pattern before because my migraines usually strike during the night so I wake up to them. But the ones that lay me out and make me feel like I have the flu tend to have a phantom odor beforehand.

    When I was in my mid-20s I was seeing a psychiatrist because of depression (in part because of undiagnosed migraines and anxiety) and I saw a cat get hit by a car, and the bad smell that occurred after that stayed with me for 48 hours – even if I was doing something like picking up a soda can to drink out of. My psych decided I was having “psychotic episodes” because of this and tried to give me meds for it. A few years later, I discovered I was really truly having migraines (diagnosis by Imitrex working), and I also realized I had a lot of food intolerances – often to foods that smelled horrible to me (tomatoes, fried potato skins). Consumption typically brings on stomach problems and migraines.

    And now I’m beginning to realize what cleaners are rough on me – hoping to find a way to better cope. To make it glass half full, I’m glad to know I’m a super-smeller, as I’m definitely not a super-taster. Once that becomes vogue, I’ll be set 😉

  70. Peter says:

    I have suffered migraine attacks for the past thirty five years.
    I am allergic to the following;
    Alcohol,
    Anchovies
    Vinegar & balsamic,
    Cheese,
    Yogurt,
    Liver,
    Soya,
    Soya oil & Vegetable oil which contains soya,
    Soya milk,
    Soya flour,
    Shelled Sea food (Clams, Mussels, Oysters, etc.),
    Shrimps & Prawns,
    Chocolate,
    Citrus fruits (lemon, oranges, lime, etc.),
    Berries,
    Kiwi,
    Bananas,
    Coffee,
    Scent of flowers,
    scent of any type of burning candles.
    I am also allergic to any food item which is nearing or past the best – before date.
    When I am aware certain smells are around I avoid breathing through my nose and this normally avoids me triggering a migraine attack. Unfortunately it is impossible to always avoid such smells.
    For the past 20 years whenever I did not manage to avoid migraine triggers and I did get a migraine attack I always take “Imigrane 50” or “Sumatriptan 50” just before each migraine attack pain began to be severe. With this medication my migraine symptoms usually are over about one hour after taking the medication.
    When I do get a migraine the symptoms sometimes start in my foot or my hand or my face or a combination of all.
    When I take my medication too early during the attack or after the pain has reached a certain level my medication takes longer to work and sometimes I also have to take a second pill.
    I would appreciate if anyone can recommend a medication or a natural remedy or a procedure which can assist me with avoiding smell induced migraine which I can discuss with my medical consultant.

    • Peter, have you looked into histamine intolerance? Reading your list is almost like reading a book about histamine intolerance! Here are some of my posts on it: http://www.thedailyheadache.com/?s=histamine The good news is that it there are multiple ways to manage histamine intolerance. I’ve found a dietary enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO) to be an excellent help.

      Odor triggers are a little trickier. It could be connected to a mast cell disorder, which can underlie histamine intolerance. But some of us with migraine are just super-sensitive to odors. Many people find that if they are able to reduce their migraine attack frequency in other ways (like managing food triggers), they become less sensitive to odors as a trigger. In the meantime, wearing a charcoal face mask is really the only thing that blocks odors.

      Best of luck finding relief.

      Take care,
      Kerrie

  71. Mary lippold says:

    Peter, I cant speak for something to help you avoid, but I know that for treating the actual pain of the migraine, I’ve found MAXALT is best for me. It takes my pain away within an hour and I rarely have to take a second pill. Hope others will have suggestions for you that will help.
    Mary

  72. Carmen says:

    I’ve had migraines for 13yrs that started with my first pregnancy. I smell EVERYTHING! My husband calls me super nose because I can smell everything even if I’m on the second floor of the house. I’ve sniffed out dog pee many times when our dog would have accidents in the house. I’ve smelled gas on our steps and hallway of the second floor. Flowers give me migraines and make my face go numb(allergy). I have to take imitrex before I go to the grocery store because I know once I get there my nose goes nuts and then by the end of the trip I have a bad migraine that makes me nauseous. So I plan ahead for that. I ALWAYS keep extra meds in my purse when I go out with the girls because perfume on some people send me to migraine hell. I literally smell everything and most of the time I already have a migraine, but there are times that I smell weird stuff and I have zero migraines.
    I’ve recently(September 2016) started a process elimination food diet to figure out what foods triggers a migraine. I’m learning what is safe for me food wise. But my #1 trigger is my nose, which makes it hard for me to want to leave my house. I know if I do I’ll get a migraine. Sinus headaches are horrible and soon turn into a migraine if I’m outside during in season. Lol! I live in Ohio so the weather here is bipolar.
    I just recently(December 2016) switched to a new neurologist who feels I should do acupuncture or Botox since we’ve exhausted all meds to prevent my migraines. I’ve never been diagnosed with a migraine due to smell(or whatever the actual term is).. I’ve never hear of an actual term for it till just now but deciding to google. Lol! I feel like I need to email my new doctor and have him look further into this instead of just saying I have severe migraines.

    • Hi Carmen,

      I’ve been wearing these charcoal masks in stores and movie theaters for the last 18 months: http://amzn.to/2ldNdbX. They have basically eliminated my scent-triggered migraine attacks. Wearing them in public was a little awkward at first, but, for me, avoiding those migraine attacks makes the self-consciousness so worthwhile.

      Take care,
      Kerrie

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