Betty Ago: Perfume

Complaints have not been a major theme in my blogs. However, I’ve been led to believe that many others share the following problem. Many fragrances drive me crazy! They cause me to cough, itch, sneeze, wheeze and some even send me into a state of total panic. My doctor has assured me that I’m not insane. It’s a chemical reaction that can indeed affect the brain. In fact, air-borne substances can get to the brain faster than ingested ones. 1

In our CCRC, perfume has not been a frequent problem. When it is a problem, it’s a BIG one. We have periodic reminders in our newsletter that residents should refrain from these substances for the protection of others. This reminder also extends to the use of air-fresheners in public spaces. Imagine being in an elevator with a highly perfumed person (men are included) and being trapped for a period long enough to start an allergic reaction. Imagine being served dinner by a server who ignored the rule and wore her new fragrance to work. Even the most expensive perfume does not blend well with chicken soup. Even worse, imagine having a nurse come to change your surgical bandages and having her “aura” make you sick. All of these things have happened to us.

According to Wikipedia, the history of perfume includes the following: “Between the 16th and 17th centuries, perfumes were used primarily by the wealthy to mask body odors that resulted from infrequent bathing.”

This reference reminded me of a story told by my father-in-law. He was a wise man who understood the march of history and the necessity of change. When he was a boy in 1890’s Eastern Europe, every fall his mother would sew him into his long underwear. The flaps were left functional. The underwear stayed on until spring when it was warm enough to pull the stitches, peel off the garment, and jump in the creek. He told me this story within the context of his enjoyment of indoor plumbing.

Sixteenth century royalty did not have indoor plumbing. We do.

1 The time for a substance to reach the brain: Smoked or inhaled is 7-10 seconds. Injecting is 15-30 seconds. Ingesting is 20-30 minutes ( and

Betty Ago


Betty is a real person who resides in one of our Brookdale entry fee communities. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brookdale Senior Living.

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