Dear Abby: I'd like to respond to the letter from "Hurting in Virginia Beach, Va." (Feb. 6), who complained that the smell of mint chewing gum triggers her migraines. Many gum chewers, like me, have good reasons for doing it. I chew gum on planes because it helps reduce sinus pressure, thus preventing my own headaches. I am also a former smoker, and gum-chewing is a healthier alternative to tobacco.
If "Hurting" explained her situation to me, I would certainly abide by her request to not chew, although I would find it uncomfortable to go without for long. I recommend she carry several packs of non-mint gum in her purse. When forced into close proximity with a gum-chewer, she could then offer him or her an acceptable alternative. I believe she will almost certainly find people more receptive to her needs that way.
Dave in Spring Hill, Fla.
Dear Dave: Your common-sense suggestion was the one most often repeated by my readers. I advised "Hurting" that whether at a concert or on a plane, she could ask to be moved away from an "offender." My readers comment:
Dear Abby: I propose a different solution. She should purchase one (or several) of those surgical masks that cover the mouth and nose. They come in a variety of styles, and she could surely find one that would block her sense of smell. This way she won't have to risk a confrontation or depend on a third party to get involved. Once she detects the offensive smell, she can just put on her mask, no one gets bothered and everyone's happy.
Tim in Salem, Ore.
Dear Abby: I sympathize with "Hurting." I am a migraine sufferer myself. The smell of many perfumes, lotions, cleaning agents, tobacco smoke — even some foods — can trigger a migraine. Because it is nearly impossible to control what other people wear, clean with or eat, I have found it much easier over the years to make sure I always carry some medication with me whenever I go out. Being able to take my medication the minute I sense a migraine coming on has prevented many events from ending badly for me.
Feeling Her Pain in New York
Dear Abby: I have a deadly allergy to oranges. The smell alone can bring me very close to anaphylactic shock, but more often just causes a migraine like "Hurting's." I have a small bottle of eucalyptus oil I take with me and place a drop or two under my nose. This will stop the reaction. Hope this information helps.
Vernelle in California
Dear Abby: Your advice was spot-on as far as asking the gum chewer to discard the gum, or to be reseated in a theater. But often the house is full, or the plane has no empty seats and no one will switch. As I suffer from similar issues, my father found me a device called a personal air purifier. It hangs around your neck (or sits in your lap) and literally cleans the air you breathe. It is battery-operated and goes everywhere. It has saved me tons of embarrassment when dealing with other people in small spaces.
Rachel in Cherry Hill, N.J.
Dear Abby: "Hurting" needs to take preventive action when she makes her concert reservation. Simply ask for an aisle seat (for her) and the one beside it (where her husband will sit). Of course, it will be slightly more difficult on a plane because of closer quarters, but she can still make sure her husband is sitting between her and the offender as a buffer, which might help a little.
Location, Location, Location
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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.