Strong smells can trigger physical reactions, such as headaches, in people who are sensitive to certain scents. But what can this connection between headaches and odors considered unpleasant depend on?
Humans, according to research, can smell over 1 trillion odors. But no two people will react the same to the same smell. Although there are some smells that almost everyone considers unpleasant, reactions to other types of smells can be much more personal.
For example, while one person may find the smell of a floral perfume to be heavenly, another may find it gives them a headache. There are many reasons why people can have one physical reaction to strong odorsand here are the three most common.
Read also: Headaches: These are the best foods for migraine pain relief according to a study
Of all our senses, only the sense of smell has a direct line to our emotional system. The reason for this connection is thought to be because the sense of smell evolved before all the other senses.
This means that we not only perceive the smell based on the chemicals presented to us, but along with all our memories of that smell, including how it makes us feel, our past memories and how we feel in the present. .
So if you smell something you associate with a negative memory, your body generates a fight or flight response.
This response is how the body reacts, and it can cause a number of physical changes, most of which are triggered by the brain going into alertness. One of the first changes you may notice is the tension around the head and neck area.
The reason for this is due to one vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) which allows more blood to be diverted to the brain and parts of the body that need it.
Vasodilation also activates sensory receptors embedded in blood vessels, which can cause headaches if the blood vessels in the head and neck are dilating.
According to research, the way we emotionally respond to certain smells is very personal and based on a myriad of experiences, but if you tend to get headaches only when you smell certain smells, it could be due to the negative emotions these scents bring back to you. mind.
Disorders of the sinuses
The chemicals that activate the smell signals in our brains can sometimes irritate sinuses. Smoke, perfume, and chlorine are some of the more common odors that cause irritation.
Our sinuses are made up of four distinct cavities, each lined with a membrane that secretes mucus. Mucus traps particles and insects that enter through the nose and mouth.
To eliminate these trapped and potentially irritating particles, the body needs to produce more and more mucus, resulting in allergic-like symptoms. This in turn causes our immune systems to activate, which results in vasodilation and inflammation. The end result for some is a headache.
Studies have shown that some smells can also act directly on the nerve pathway, which also transmits sensory signals to the brain; this is known as the trigeminal pathway, which collects sensory signals from our head and carries them through nerve cells to the brain for processing.
When this pathway is stimulated it causes inflammation, because it detects a threat that only the immune system can resolve, and this mechanism can lead to headaches. Chemical odors such as formaldehyde, some cleaning products and cigarette smoke are known to act directly on the trigeminal pathway.
Read also: Headache: it’s also a question of DNA! Largest migraine study identifies more than 120 linked genes
L’osmophobia it is defined as an intolerance to odors. Although rare in itself, people with chronic headaches tend to experience osmophobia as well.
According to research, migraine sufferers are particularly prone to osmophobia. Some research has also shown that exposure to strong odors for two or more hours can actually trigger a migraine in about 20% of migraine sufferers. Cigarette smoke, perfumes, car exhausts, and cleaning products are some of the most common odors that can cause headaches.
The nervous system of migraine sufferers can be particularly sensitive to certain sensory stimuli in daily life. But during the fase prodromica (the first of four distinct phases of migraine, which can occur a couple of days to an hour before the headache attack) can become even more sensitive to certain stimuli, including smells.
Many migraine sufferers experience signs that a migraine is coming, such as yawning more and craving certain foods, and at this stage the smells that would not normally bother you could be intensely disturbing.
You may also sense odors that aren’t there, which researchers have termed as phantom smells. The most common phantom odor that many report prior to migraines is a burning smell; so, although odor is not the trigger for migraines, in this case, it could be a sign of an oncoming headache.
So, if you are a person who tends to get headaches due to certain scents, it is good to avoid them as much as possible, even if this can often be very difficult.
Follow us on Telegram | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok | Youtube
Could it be interesting for you: