Mother-in-law’s products leave a foul odor

A reader's recent pregnancy leaves her sensitive to certain fragrances — especially her mother-in-law's hair products and perfume. Dr. Carolyn Hax recommends some gentle, but firm, honesty, when approaching her mother-in-law about it.



November 28, 2022 - 2:00 PM

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: This is kind of a silly problem. My kind, sensitive mother-in-law makes me sick. She stayed with us for a few weeks while I was pregnant with a now-6-month-old. I was pretty vomitty, and one of the many triggers was the scent of my MIL’s hair spray and, to a lesser extent, perfume. I didn’t say anything at the time, because I didn’t want to hurt her — she’s sensitive about her appearance — and was also choosing battles, because cooking meat was an even bigger trigger. I figured out how to minimize my exposure and accepted the vomiting as par for the course.

Now she’s back for two weeks to meet the 6-month-old, and I am unexpectedly still sensitive to these scents. They don’t make me vomit, but I’m finding them nauseating and generally unpleasant. They never bothered me before the pregnancy, so I’m guessing my body is doing the association game.

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