Objectives: Our objective was to determine odorants that trigger migraine attacks and the time of onset of headache after exposure.
Methods: Migraine or tension-type headache patients, diagnosed according to the criteria of the International Classification of Headache Disorders-II, were interviewed about lifetime prevalence of headaches triggered by odors and time of onset of pain, after exposure of the patient to the odor.
Results: We studied 200 migraine patients and 200 tension-type headache patients. There were odor-triggered headaches after 25.5 ± 1.9 minutes of exposure in 70.0% (140/200) of migraine patients and none with tension-type headache, which ran at low sensitivity (70.0%, 95% CI 63.1-76.2) and high specificity (100.0%, 95% CI 97.6-100.0). Odor-triggered headaches are distributed in the following order of frequency: perfumes (106/140, 75.7%), paints (59/140, 42.1%), gasoline (40/140, 28.6%) and bleach (38/140, 27.1%). There was significance in the association of odor-triggered migraine, especially among perfume with cleaning (phi = -0.459), cooking (phi = 0.238), beauty products (phi = -0.213) and foul odors (phi = -0.582).
Conclusions: Odorants, isolated or in association, especially perfume, may trigger migraine attacks after a few minutes of exposure.
Keywords: Migraine; migraine triggers; odors; osmophobia.