Interviu with Lord Simon in House ofthe House of Lords:
Whiff of perfume could kill me
“Like five million other people in this country (UK), I suffer from asthma. In my case, allergic reactions to perfumes, tobacco smoke and chemical fumes have forced me to make huge changes to the way I live.
The last time I went to the cinema, for example, was to see Crocodile Dundee in 1986, and I can’t remember when I last sat in a crowded restaurant, or took a train or bus.
Any of these “normal” activities will expose me to triggers which could set off a potentially fatal attack. Just the slightest whiff of a woman’s perfume, some aftershave or someone’s cigarette can bring on an attack in 20 seconds, and leave me fighting for breath.
Three years ago, I collapsed and needed oxygen simply because a Baroness tried to sit beside me after washing her hair that morning with a perfumed shampoo.
And last October it even caused a sitting of the House to be adjourned. I was Deputy Speaker that day when a message was handed across the chamber. It was on a piece of faintly perfumed paper – and I inhaled a tiny whiff of the scent.
In an instant, I was gasping for breath, as the bronchioles – the small airways that carry air in and out of the lungs – became inflamed and swollen.
As a result of my condition, nothing is left to chance. I have an oxygen tank and mask in my office at the House of Lords, another in my bedroom at home and one behind the driver’s seat of my car.
Although I live a full and very active life, asthma has changed my existence beyond measure. I can no longer fly or travel on public transport. I cannot stay in a hotel in case a smoker is in the room next door, or the pillowcases contain residues of dry cleaning fluid.
I can’t go to the theatre, restaurants or the cinema. My wife, has had to change every brand of shampoo, deodorant and make-up which she used to use.
Any guests to our country home are given a list of strict instructions about what they can and cannot wear.”
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