Olfactory hypersensitivity

What is olfactory hypersensitivity?

Olfactory hypersensitivity is when information from the sense of smell is received too intensely. The person is very sensitive to odors such as perfumes, soaps, chemicals, smells that other people find unpleasant, but also to certain foods. The hypersensitive person may have difficulty being in groups of people, taking public transport, using certain products or even eating many foods. Autistic people have hyper- or hypo-sensitivities more often, but people without any particular developmental diagnosis can also have these conditions.

What is olfactory hypersensitivity?

Olfactory hypersensitivity is a heightened sensitivity to odors in which there is an overly strong response to stimuli that affect the sense of smell. Certain products, fragrances and foods can be painful to smell, and being in close contact with other humans can be a real challenge.

Examples of smells that affect many autistic people

Symptoms of olfactory hypersensitivity

The symptoms of odor hypersensitivity vary from person to person. You don’t have to have the whole list of symptoms to be hypersensitive, and there are many symptoms that aren’t on this list.

My 13-year-old boy in a restaurant: "Mom, the man's eating things that stink and are out of date"! It was fish.

Consequences of olfactory hypersensitivity

The symptoms of olfactory hypersensitivity vary from person to person. You don’t need to have the whole list of symptoms to be hypersensitive, and there are many symptoms that are not on this list.


A smell just incapacitated me. My mother was cooking clams, and some of them turned out to be dead. It was too late when she noticed. The house is COVERED in the smell, and I've never smelled anything worse. The only way I can describe it is tonsil stones but like ten times worse. I knew I was sensitive to smells before, but this is a whole new level. This shit was debilitating. I had to get in my room and open the window, get some essential oils in the humidifier, and put Vicks VapoRub under my nose. I feel so bad, like I'm exaggerating. Like it's not this big of a deal. But I genuinely can't leave my room without gagging. My stomach hurts so bad just from gagging and smelling that, I don't know what to do. I'm so upset emotionally too, just because of how bad my body reacted to this and how I can't leave my room now. We were about to have lunch. I'm getting nauseous again just thinking about it.

Solutions for olfactory hypersensitivity

A person hypersensitive to odors may be unable to study or work normally. They may need to request the accommodation of a scent-free environment.

CCOHS and the Government of Canada can provide guidance to employers wishing to offer a safe, scent-free environment for people with odor disabilities.