Assessment of ocular and nasal irritation in asthmatics resulting from fragrance exposure

Richard E. Opiekun, M. Smeets, M. Sulewski, R. Rogers, N. Prasad, U. Vedula, P. Dalton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: Many asthmatics report worsening of symptoms following exposure to odours and sensory irritants commonly found in household and cosmetic products. Despite this, little evidence exists to confirm the degree to which such subjective reports are correlated with localized, objective changes in the upper or lower airways following a fragranced product exposure. Objective: Subjective symptom reports were compared to objective measures in mild asthmatics, moderate asthmatics and non-asthmatics following exposure to one of two fragranced household aerosol mixtures and a clean air control condition to determine if asthmatics reported greater subjective symptoms of nasal congestion or exhibited objective measures of elevated ocular irritation and nasal congestion following exposure than did healthy controls. Methods: Measures of nasal mucosal swelling, using acoustic rhinometry, and photographic assessments of ocular hyperemia, using macro-photography, were taken before exposure, immediately after an initial 5-min exposure and again following a 30-min exposure to either of two, fragranced aerosol products and a clean air control. Self-reports of nasal patency at each timepoint were also obtained. Results: Although moderate asthmatics tended to report more nasal congestion following fragranced product exposure than did non-asthmatics, no exposure-related changes in ocular redness or nasal mucosal swelling were observed among the three groups. Spirometry readings also failed to show evidence of any exposure-related changes in pulmonary function. Conclusion: Despite claims that exposure to fragranced products may trigger ocular and respiratory symptoms among asthmatics, we found no evidence that 30 min of exposure to one of two fragranced aerosols elicited objective adverse effects in the ocular or nasal mucosa of mild and moderate asthmatics. While physiological mechanisms of fragrance impact may yet be responsible for some of the adverse reports among asthmatics following fragrance exposure, such reports may also reflect a non-physiological locus of symptom perception triggered by other sensory cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1256-1265
Number of pages10
JournalClinical and Experimental Allergy
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Acoustic rhinometry
  • Asthma
  • Fragrance
  • Nasal patency
  • Ocular hyperemia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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