Are candles, incense causes of illnesses?

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DEAR DR. GOTT: Has there been a study on the effects of scented oils, burning candles and incense on the immune system? My son burns an array of these in his home and I was wondering if they contribute to his many colds and sore throats.

DEAR READER: I am unaware of any studies that were done to this effect; however, in my opinion, the answer is, yes, they can.

Many individuals used scented oils, candles and/or incense in their homes to mask unpleasant odors or simply because they smell nice. However, strong scents, especially if burned often, may cause congestion. Some individuals may also be sensitive, or even allergic to certain smells which may increase the risk of catching a cold, or developing a sore throat. Even the simple inhalation of these scented smokes can be enough to irritate the throat, eyes and nasal passages.

In my opinion, you son is likely overusing these products and has developed a sensitivity or allergy. I suggest he stop burning or using these products for a week or two to see if his health improves. If so, he should either permanently discontinue using them or use them sparingly. If not, he should see his physician to determine if he has an underlying condition which is weakening his immune system or increasing his risk of infection. If he smokes cigarettes, these can also be to blame.

Readers who are interested in learning more can order my Health Report “Allergies” by sending a self-addressed, stamped number 10 envelop and a $2 US check or money order to Dr. Peter Gott, PO Box 433, Lakeville, CT 06039. Be sure to mention the title when writing or print an order form from my website,

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