What do you folks do to circumvent/cope with smell sensory overload?

Looking for any new coping strategies!

  • What are your main triggers?

  • Avoidance. It’s literally the only thing that works for me. Tabaco is the worst smell adversions I have so with more and more places banning it my life’s been getting easier.

  • if you can avoid it that would be good but if you can't you need to try and find the opposite of what ever it is that is overloading you.

    So for me for example, my main 'thing' is that I have very sensitive hearing so I bring my AirPods with me every where so if things start to get too much I can put them in listen to music or even sometimes not play music just use them as ear plugs just to quiet down the things around me.

    I have quite a sensitive nose too but I had covid and it's messed up my smell since and I have hay fever right now so I'm blocked up but if I was somewhere with a bad smell I would try and get away as quickly as possible or take my self to a bathroom or something and just put my head under the collar of my jumper and take some deep breathes.

    But I don't know what overloads you it could be other things hope this helps though 

  • Basically everything. Anything that is strong that I cannot get away from. Summertime is the worst because the windows have to be open, but people have bonfires every night (close to allotments) so constantly smelling smoke, sometimes all night.

    Also lots of roadworks every year in summer which brings smells of hot tar, exhaust, dust from pneumatic drills, sometimes even sewage smells. I have a fan in my room that is pretty much always on, and I have different coping strategies like lavender bags, mint chewing gum, I even place badger balm on skin under my nose after seeing that trick used by detectives in crime shows! (They use vicks vapour rub before going to see a dead body). Unfortunately, vicks has other issues going on with it because of the camphor in it, so that was a no go.

    I look around a lot at different autism shops selling coping tools and there seems to be stuff to help with every other sense - headphones for noise issues, coloured filters for light sensitivity/Irlen syndrome, sensory textile stuff for touch, etc. But nothing ever for smell except for those with hyporesponsivity (smell scratch cards, different exploratory tools, etc). I keep hoping to find something like a vinagraitte somewhere but can't get one and just find it odd that there seems to be nothing to try to help those with smell as their biggest overload problem.

  • Are there any smells that do not overload you? Perhaps ones that you find are more calming?

    I'm thinking along the lines of how white noise or pink noise helps people with hearing sensitivities. Perhaps there is an equivalent in smells that you could have in the background to help dull some of the incoming smells. I would hope that the background smell wouldn't need to be TOO strong... but if it would, then I guess this idea wouldn't work.

    Besides this, I try to cover my nose with a sleeve or other fabric, but that only works for shorter time periods - usually to help buy me time to physically move to avoid a smell. I have a reaction (asthmatic) to strong exhaust fumes and for the last decade a mask has worked well in avoiding that reaction, and sometimes I can't even smell that incredibly strong, nasty smell through the mask. But I do change my breathing to shallower 'just in case', so it may be that. Not sure if a mask is an option for you, or if that would work. 

    An expensive option - that may not even work - is using an air conditioning unit at home to reduce the need to keep windows or doors open and filter the air a little.

    It's a really important topic you raise. It would be good to have more options for smell sensitivities. I'm really stumped for good ideas here.

  • Hi 

    Generally I get out of the location. Simple but effective  terrible in lifts, cars, and aircraft

    If I know it is going to happen  i will block my nose with cotton wool. I have done this in my laboratory  years back )  when handling very nasty smelling / headache inducing chemicals. 

  • Yes, I always try that first but not always possible to get out, for example smells in a hospital and having to sit in that environment for long periods of time. I cover my face with a scarf. Haven't tried cotton wool to block nose though, might give that a go, thanks!

    Btw, I'm brand new on here and trying to navigate this site is difficult for me. I gladly accepted your friend request, but no idea how I could message you/anyone directly on here? Saw your profile and your book interests, and just wanted to say if you're a fan of Aurelius, you might enjoy Seneca: Letter from a Stoic. It's like a 2000 yr old self-help book! ISBN 9780140442106 and I think Blackwells currently has it cheapest. Sorry to rest of people on thread, this is something that I would have sent DM if I could have found such an option....

  • Hi Mantra,

      Thanks, some good ideas. I do like the idea of air con, but as you say, pretty expensive. Last year I did discover some essential oils I like the smell of, and I bought myself a clay oil burner. Can't stand all the commercial plug-ins and automatic 'puff' sprays, they're usually horribly cloying smells and they 'puff' too frequently. But being able to control the oil burner is nice and that's helping somewhat. I haven't tried it over a summer though yet, and of course this is just a stationary environment solution and won't help with the stuff out in the world.
      Someone has just recommended cotton wool for up the nose which doesn't sound half bad! Like you, I cover my face when I can't get away from it. Like if in a hospital, I have a scarf that I wrap around my face (as well as ear defenders, baseball cap for the light/movement, etc. I look a sight). 

    A kind of perfect solution for me would be if autism shops started stocking something along the lines of the badger balm coping strategy I use. i.e. a range of different smelling balms certified safe for putting that close to nostrils for breathing. That, and vinagraittes! I tried to buy a vinagraitte from eBay but because they're no longer made it means buying antique, and then there worries about lead, etc.

    The search continues.

  • I tend to have scheduled in rest days, so if I have a busy couple of days, I make sure to have days when I do absolutely nothing.

  • You're welcome! I'm fascinated by your vinaigrette idea - is this the same as salad vinaigrettes? Oil + lemon juice mixture?

    Definitely with you on the commercial plug-in scents - they're so bad! I like the essential oils too. That's along the lines I was thinking.

    Good luck!