The Truth About Incense and Allergies
I stuck my foot in it again and said the wrong thing but I did mean well, and that’s about all I can say for myself. I apologized to the person for not being more diplomatic and giving offense and of course, I will be a little sad if she won’t accept it. But the topic was on a message board I go to frequently and the topic was about incense and its use in church and people with allergies. This comes up a lot and I decided rather than keep repeating myself I would try to present my own views on this blog, where I can say what I have to say.
I was responding to someone who said she had an allergy to incense and was considering buying an incense from a company that had a “hypoallergenic” blend. I told her there is no such thing as “hypoallergenic” incense. This is false advertising on the part of ANY incense company/maker . There is no way to prove that ANY substance is hypoallergenic and this term is not even legitimate in the medical profession. It is a marketing term designed to dazzle people with B-S and imply that their products are “better for you” than someone else’s. That’s just crap.
Here’s the truth:
Allergies can be a terrible thing for a person to bear. They are a serious matter and nothing to play with. People who go to Church and cannot bear the incense should talk to their priest. They should NEVER use incense at home.
It is important for us to understand something else too:
Not everyone who claims an allergy to incense has one. And this cheapens the claim of those who really DO have an allergy to incense.
I saw this comment on another message board, and it sums what I am trying to say here, pretty well:
The person who wrote this is called “callsitlikeitis” and he/she says: “I never cease to be amazed at how complaining and allergic the American public has become and how aggressive they are about it. It seems that the public no longer prides itself on “true grit” and the ability to be strong but instead now develops allergies and annoy everyone else with their complaining. Farmers 100 years ago couldn’t boo hoo and say they had an allergy and couldn’t farm!! The result would be starvation. They had candlelight and I bet no one whined about the “icky” smell of candle wax. What an enormous bunch of self-absorbed babies we’ve become.“
(posted on this site:
I probably wouldn’t be this blunt or rude, (most of the time anyway) but I have to admit this person has a point.
I’m always amazed at how many Americans claim to be “allergic” to incense, perfume, even cigarette smoke, and who then go pollute the bathroom with Renuzit aerosol spray, full of carcinogens, just to cover the smell of their own humanity.
People are always quick to tell me, when they find out I am an incense maker and perfumer, “Oh ! I am ALLERGIC to incense (or perfume.)”
I sometimes respond with:
“It’s okay – I wasn’t going to sell any to you anyway.” They always looked shocked and stare at me like “how dare you?”
(People should not assume I am after their money— just because I happen to make and sell something doesn’t mean I expect them to buy it. “How dare they assume that?” ) This is a subtle thing and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me or even understand what I am saying, so let’s move on.
I’ve said this many times and I will say it again: Just because you don’t LIKE incense, doesn’t mean you are ALLERGIC to it, and just because you might cough a bit, doesn’t mean you have an allergy.
True allergic reactions to incense, and perfume, or anything else, are true suffering and people who want to believe that a little discomfort equals an allergy are insulting those who really have one.
A true allergic reaction to incense includes these:
swelling of the lymph glands in the neck
burning throat and eyes, and mouth
loss of orientation, equilibrium and dizziness
severe respiratory distress/inability to breathe
Any of these are enough to call 911. All of them together would put someone in the hospital, not just in the back row of the church.
My advice to people who are “allergic” to incense: Do not buy or use ANY. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic perfume or a hypoallergenic incense. That’s just absurd and ridiculous.
For my Orthodox readers, here’s the bare, butt-naked truth about incense in church: Nobody ever said Orthodoxy was comfortable and that your personal comfort was of any importance to anyone. Learn to put up with a few things if you want to be Orthodox.
It’s my blog. I can say whatever I want here. And whether people want to admit it or not, what I’ve said above is the truth about incense, perfume and allergies.
My heart goes out to people who really have these allergies. And when these people complain, the last thing I want is for no one to take them seriously, because some people just couldn’t get through a Liturgy without a little discomfort and without the spotlight shining directly on them. Think it over.
PS: I’m burning six sticks at once, of my own aloeswood (ahhh….oudh!) and I love it. I would be an incense maker and perfumer, whether anyone buys my stuff or not. I love what I do!