By Virginia Sole-Smith
Do your teen's asthma symptoms step up after a trip to Sephora or her morning hairspray routine? If so, she may suffer from fragrance sensitivity—the airborne particles released by chemicals in a wide variety of personal care products and cleaning supplies can cause muscles in the airways to tighten, making breathing difficult, says Dr. Matiz. This sensitivity is less well known than other causes, so it may catch teens and parents off guard—especially in girls who never suffered from asthma until puberty. "There's a relationship between asthma and estrogen levels, and in many girls asthma symptoms sometimes appear when they get their first period," says Clark. "There's also speculation that increased use of heavily fragranced beauty products may be another reason we see more new cases of asthma in teen girls than boys."
If scents trigger symptoms, help your daughter choose hypoallergenic products and avoid anything with "fragrance" or "parfum" listed as ingredients. And be sympathetic. The girls in Clark's study were more likely than boys to feel embarrassed by asthma.
The key is talking to your child so she's empowered to manage her asthma when you're not around. "Encourage her to identify exactly what causes problems," says Clark. Asthma may be something she has to deal with for the rest of her life, so now's the time to teach her that she's in control.