Student Body Odor

  1. I'm a high school nurse and am wondering how you all handle student body odor complaints. It is a delicate issue and I feel like I'm walking a fine line of being accused of singling a student out.
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    About hsnurse1

    Joined: Apr '12; Posts: 26; Likes: 10


  3. by   ob-rnc
    Oh the odors! That is probably the most difficult subject to learn to navigate through in any area of nursing. Earlier this year there were several complaints from kids in one grade at our high school. The class president even asked me to just come and speak to everyone as a group. I put together a power-point presentation, made a handout with cute cartoon pics of a female and male skunk grooming themselves on the front, and downloaded a few cartoonish videos from youtube to show on hygiene and one Pepe LePue Cartoon to demonstrate how he did not realize he smelled bad though others around him did.... I also took several pieces of rags and placed them into zip bags with smelly matter to demonstrate how our clothes can hold onto certain smells and discussed how our noses become accustomed to the smell after constant exposure, but that doesn't mean others can't smell it.... For example, I lit a cigarette let it burn for a few seconds then snuffed it out in a rag and placed it in the zip bag, I also used good smelling things like a rag soaked with fabric softener, peppermint extract, etc.... The kids were great, the videos lightened the mood and for a few kids who participated the most I passed out gifts of deodorant, body wash...Like a door prize.

    Doing the whole class was great, because it prevented the singling-out of one person, leading to the awkward embarrassing moments. Also, ( I will jinx myself for saying this) but I have not had one complaint since then and that was in November! I am planning to make it an annual educational opportunity

    Hope this helps!
  4. by   Sadala
    I was a little unclear about your post... The entire student body smells, the entire student body is complaining about smells, or the body odor of one particular student is garnering complaints?

    Also - Who's doing the complaining?
  5. by   ArrowRN
    ummmm I like the frank approach...hi student X here's a free stink! use it!! ok that's bad...

    option 2 you can do a personal hygiene class and give the class free brushes , soap and deodorant and hope it don't break your bank...hygiene is part of nursing you know...its stinks but someone gotta do it. lol
  6. by   HolyPeas
    Be gentle with the kid, but let them know that it's noticeable. Ask them if they need anything, because you never know whats going on at home. The washing machine could be malfunctioning, they might not have the things they need to take care of the smell, and frankly, some kids are just freaking smelly and they need to shower more than the average person.

    Be nice. Let them know this conversation is completely private, no one has complained about them (even if they have, kinds can be sensitive, just be cool) and have some bodywash, and deodorant to give the kid if you are allowed. Otherwise be prepared to set them up with organizations that can provide things like that.
  7. by   Live.&.Learn
    I'm in nursing school right now and last semester we did presentations on wellness promotion, 2 girls did one on skin cancer and contacted some companies to get free samples of different sun screens and face creams. I think the first comment is right on, great approach to involve all of the students. Maybe you could get some free samples of deodorant, body wash, etc. Kids that age don't respond well to criticism, so tread lightly and be "cool" if you do have to approach individuals. Back to the free sample idea, maybe email several companies so that you can keep things on hand to give to kids...good luck with this one. I imagine that your job is no easy feat. Keep up the good work
  8. by   Flare
    Over the years, I've tried it both ways with a general class and with speaking to the kid one on one. Truth be told, the whole class approach seldom has the desired impact on the target student. The direct approach has (for me anyhow) proven to be more effective. It is possible to tell a student they need to be more mindful of their hygiene and bathe regularly and wash their clothing in a gentle manner. And using a direct approach, I can't tell you how many times i've come across a dire social situation that nobody was aware of (student hasn't had power for last 3 weeks, no hot water, living on someone's sofa) So I feel like taking the direct approach gives me a chance in an empty office to ask the student if everything is okay at home or if there is anything we should know about or might want to talk about.
  9. by   amygarside
    Take a bath and use a deodorant. That is the best advice I can make.
  10. by   caregiver1977
    Quote from amygarside
    Take a bath and use a deodorant. That is the best advice I can make.
    I don't think the OP was confused about how to solve their OWN body odor issues. Maybe I am just tired and can't read today.
  11. by   nurseprnRN
    Quote from Sadala
    I was a little unclear about your post... The entire student body smells, the entire student body is complaining about smells, or the body odor of one particular student is garnering complaints?

    Also - Who's doing the complaining?
    This is early adolescence-- most of them are just beginning to have functioning apocrine glands, have newly hairy places that need more washing, have extra secretions/excretions that provide food for bacteria, be shy about showering in gym, and they're embarrassed to ask their moms to start picking up the extra stick of deodorant on the grocery run. Many of them smell bad, they all need to learn this.

    Ob-rnc, I think that's a brilliant educational effort and the news of it will be handed down from class to class and enter into legend. Your faculty must be kissing your feet.
  12. by   mercurysmom
    This may be a simple case of a teen who hasn't yet realized the necessity of "deodorize before you socialize," but it's important to confirm that there isn't anything under the surface that needs more than some teaching and some deodorant...

    My LPN class was made up of equal parts of federally employed NA's, single parents receiving AFDC, and "general admission"students from the community. One of my classmates was a single mother of 4 children, living up in the hilltowns somewhere. She did not have a car, but the Dept. of Public Welfare did provide transportation to and from classes and clinicals. At some point during the winter, several of us noticed that her uniforms were clearly unwashed, her stockings were full of holes, and her hair was visibly greasy and unkempt. Worst of all was her body odor. She seemed to be aware of it, and she kept toiletries in her locker and tried to clean up as best as she could during breaks and lunch.

    One morning, she was called out of class and never returned. Apparently, she had had a minor house fire several weeks before, and while most of the home was still intact, she lost electricity and phone services. Without electricity, her well didn't work, so she had been getting drinking water from neighbors and melting snow to for water for flushing the toilet. Her sole source of heat was a wood stove, and they were using candles and kerosene lanterns for light. Somehow, someone discovered the family's living conditions, and had reported them to DCF.

    We felt horrible. None of us had considered asking her about how things were going at home. When her hygiene started slipping, no one mentioned it to her, although we rolled our eyes and made faces behind her back. We never thought that offering to help her with such a (relatively) minor problem may have benefited her entire family. This is one of the top five "missed opportunities" I've experienced, and I will remember and learn from it for the rest of my life.
  13. by   PalmHarborMom
    My son could be one of those stinky boys at school. He can take a shower, go outside for 5 minutes and come back smelling like a monkey's backside. When the smell is particularly bad, I can smell him when he walks in the house. The worst part about it all is that he does not care. We have been trying all sorts of deodorants and finally found one that helps. One suggestion that I have not seen posted yet is contacting the parents. Talk to them in a non-judgmental way and express your concern that the student may start to get made fun of because of their odor. Sometimes the parents may not know how bad it is, or that their kid should be wearing deodorant. I believe that if you call the parents showing concern for their child, they will respond in a positive manner.
  14. by   DawnJ
    Please be gentle and private. I was the child of immigrants and our family bathed once a week. For church. Everyone we knew did the same thing. Clothes were worn until visibly dirty and then washed. We did laundry once a month, when we washed the linens. That was the way things were done in the old country where water and soap were precious and laundry was done by hand.

    In this culture, that is crazy, but that is what I was taught was "normal" at home. And the kids were mean and nasty to me in middle school and I didn't understand why since I was as clean as the rest of my family was. It wasn't until high school when a lady who was cutting my hair gently told me that it was best for my hair and skin if I washed at least every other day. Then I learned to do my own laundry.