BMC Public Health (Jan 2023)

Extent of exposure to scented candles and prevalence of respiratory and non-respiratory symptoms amongst young university students

  • Noor Al Khathlan,
  • Meaad Basuwaidan,
  • Sarah Al Yami,
  • Fatimah Al-Saif,
  • Salam Al-Fareed,
  • Khalid Ansari

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 23, no. 1
pp. 1 – 8


Read online

Abstract Background Incense burning such as scented candles are commonly used in Arabian Gulf regions as it is thought to produce relaxing effects on people’s mood. This study is conducted to examine the prevalence of scented candles’ usage, extent of exposure and its effects on individuals’ health based on symptoms prevalence in young university students. Material and method A cross-sectional study was conducted on university students from different regions in Saudi Arabia. Data was collected in March 2020 using an online questionnaire survey adapted from The European Community Respiratory Health Survey-II (ECRHS-II). Inclusion criterion for recruitment was students with non-smoking status. Descriptive statistics were used to report demographic data on the extent of exposure to scented candles (in terms of frequency and duration) and the presence of symptoms. Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to assess the relationship between scented candles exposure and respiratory and other health-related problems. Results The prevalence of scented candles usage was 65.7% (472/718) among the respondents. However, its pervasiveness was significantly higher in females than in male respondents (74.9% vs. 28.4%; p = 0.0001). Among the scented candle users, 34.8% of the respondents used the scented candles more than 4 times a month and 40.2% of the respondents lit the scented candles for 20–40 min. A total of 117 (24.8%) respondents reported health-related problem and the top three health problems were headache 72 (15.2%), shortness of breath 42 (8.9%) and cough 37 (7.8%). The scented candle usage 5–6 times a week showed significantly lower wheezing (OR = 0.10, 95%CI 0.02–0.54, p = 0.008). The duration of more than 60 min of scented candle exposure showed higher occurrence of headache 1.42 times (95% CI = 0.68–2.96), sneezing 1.29 times (95% CI = 0.42-4.00) and wheezing 1.23 times (95% CI = 0.48–3.13), though the association was not significant. Conclusion The results show that scented candle usage is more prevalent among female university students in Saudi Arabia. The common health-related problems associated with scented candle exposure were headache, shortness of breath and coughing.