It’s allergy season, it’s spring and with it all the glorious reactivity that comes with pollen, budding trees and growing grass and then the freshly cut smell. This is the time of year when my inbox fills with patients wondering why so much of their progress seems to have gone out the window. My answer? “Your bucket it simply TOO FULL, we gotta empty it a bit!”

For those of us with mast cell or histamine issues (they go hand in hand friends) we are no stranger to the impact or sensitivity we have to smells. We walk into a store and we react, the perfume aisle is a no go as is the aisle with the laundry detergents. It’s either a sneeze fest or an instant headache (some of us even get dizzy). For this reason most of us avoid heavily scented laundry soap, however for the few who still haven’t you may want to take note.

Did you know one study found that 25 “volatile” air pollutants were release on average during a wash cycle? Those are reactive, harmful and even some carcinogenic (like benzene and acetaldehyde). Let’s look at those a little closer…


  • Benzene works by causing cells not to work correctly. For example, it can cause bone marrow not to produce enough red blood cells, which can lead to anemia. Also, it can damage the immune system by changing blood levels of antibodies and causing the loss of white blood cells.
  • The seriousness of poisoning caused by benzene depends on the amount, route, and length of time of exposure, as well as the age and pre-existing medical condition of the exposed person.

We know that there is benzene in our daily lives from cars to tobacco smoke however when the dose makes the poison we are exposed to far more than the amount deemed safe.


  • Some of the acetaldehyde enters your blood, damaging your membranes and possibly causing scar tissue. It also leads to a hangover, and can result in a faster heartbeat, a headache or an upset stomach.
  • The brain is most affected by acetaldehyde poisoning. It causes problems with brain activity and can impair memory.

Both of these have been linked to nasal and throat cancers – typically due to smoking of course.

For the average person these aren’t a big deal, but for those with mast cell or histamine issues it can in fact be a VERY big deal. From headaches, to nausea, anxiety (yes it’s a huge trigger) and of course sneezing, itchy or watery eyes, coughing fits or asthmatic spells.

My advice is do the little things, swap out the detergent, toss the fabric softener, use essential oils instead of perfume room sprays. See if this helps, and if you walk into a room and have an instant feeling that you need to run due to a scent – go with it! That is your histamine (mast cell) reaction telling you it’s a chemical sh!tstorm and you’re about to go down with the ship.