Scents in the Classroom and Respiratory Issues?

  1. There is a teacher at my school who has approached me with a concern regarding a scented plug-in that another teacher (with whom she shares a room) has put in their classroom and refuses to remove. According to the teacher, the scent is causing her headaches and respiratory irritation (she has hx. asthma). She tells me she is also worried that the scent may trigger our asthmatic students, and headaches or other irritations in others that would decrease their ability to focus. The other teacher refuses to remove the plug-in since he uses the classroom more frequently, and now the teacher who has approached me feels it necessary to bring the issue to the school board. She has asked that I help provide articles to defend her stance. I agree with the concerns she has voiced, although I get the impression the issue over the plug-in is more a reflection of ongoing conflict and stubborness between the two teachers. I would like to remain as uninvolved in this issue as possible, and be sure that if I provide any articles I do so in an unbiased manner. Can my fellow school nurses help me out by directing me towards some reputable information on how this scent might effect my students? I would also love it if you could share any personal experiences with similar situations. Thanks!
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    Joined: Nov '12; Posts: 65; Likes: 80


  3. by   Flare
    i don't know that you have to necessarily get involved in hunting down articles. I think if I were in your shoes, i'd probably just do a pop in to the classroom and just be matter-of-fact that it's cough and cold season and that perfumed scents can be a trigger for some asthmatics. You may not even have to do a pop-in - an email sent out to the staff to the same effect may help get your point across. I've had teachers use plug in type devices in classrooms before and have rarely seen any true asthmatic reactions or headaches from them.
  4. by   mc3
    I have a teacher with the same problem. I'm behind her, and you. Our school district has prohibited any air fresheners, room sprays, scented candles, etc. One teacher even had a kid who's Mom drowned herself in patchouli oil (ick) and that triggered her asthma despite the fact that she'd sent home a letter and told parents individually of her problem. I had to wash patchouli oil from the kids neck and face this first time. He got it from hugging Mom. The second time, Mom got called to come in. No further problems after that.
    You need to get either your Student Services Dept or Health Department involved. This is no laughing matter to people who have asthma! Shame on the other teacher for being so selfish!

  5. by   lovingtheunloved
    If all else fails, she can go the passive-aggressive route and throw the damn thing in the trash. I hate when people won't cooperate about scent sensitivity.
  6. by   AKreader
    My aunt has a serious scent sensitivity -- her airwaywill close if she is exposed to air fresheners, strong perfume, strong smoke smell, etc. If the scent is bothering someone's asthma, I would definitely support that person. I agree with trying the email route first.
  7. by   NutmeggeRN
    Can you get faciolities involved? Our head will tackle anything that impacts the air quality in the school? From a safetly perspective we are not allowed by to have those either....principal interevention?
  8. by   squidbilly
    Thanks for all the replies! I like the idea of using a more passive approach with this, and am thinking that I will send an email to all faculty reminding them that the cold season can be troublesome for everyone, but especially asthmatics. I think if I include a small bit about scent sensitivity in addition to other information regarding asthma no individual will feel targeted, the concerned teacher will feel supported, and I will be advocating for my students. I appreciate all the feedback!
  9. by   caregiver1977
    Does this also include the products the janitors use to clean the school?

    I am fine with being sensitive to other people's scent allergeries, but every so often a student makes a body scent of their own, (gas). What should we do then? Suffer through it? Evacuate the room?
  10. by   squidbilly
    I am by no means suggesting that we ought to institute a scent-free policy on our campus. Every asthmatics triggers are different, with over 200 different "irritants" having been identified it is up to the individual to identify what aggravates their symptoms and find ways to avoid it. The problem is that this particular teacher has identified this specific product as an irritant and asked that it not be used in her classroom, and her collegue has decided not to respect her request. I think this is an issue that should be handled on a case-by-case basis. If I shared office space with someone whose perfume triggered my migraines, I would politely ask that they use a different scent when working with me. Flip the script, and I would gladly sacrifice use of a product I enjoy if it meant that my friend or coworker could feel happy and healthy in my presence.

    As far as noxious body odors and emissions go, while they may be unpleasant to endure I haven't heard of gut bubbles triggering a medical emergency. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong.
  11. by   schooldistrictnurse
    We applied for an award from the EPA for air quality improvements, and it was the director of buildings and grounds who made rounds with each principal and nixed all air fresheners, junk piled on the air vents (duh), and at the same time had something to say about the percentage of paper up on any given wall (fire hazard) and hanging projects and stuff from the ceiling tiles. (motion of hanging stuff triggers the lights to go on at night). He also discouraged staff from non-school supplied hand sanitizer (no MMSD info). Lots of grumbling at first but not a big problem any more, and all valid suggestions.
  12. by   T-Bird78
    I'd send the mass email out and if the offending teacher still won't cooperate then approach him directly. You can say that you have seen people complaining of headaches and respiratory issues when in that classroom--just don't specify whether it was the teacher or a student. I worked in an allergy/asthma clinic and we had posted signs all over the place stating our "no perfume/lotion/strong odor" policy and pts would still bathe in their Chanel No 5 on the way to the office, and a gentle verbal reminder that they could trigger asthma flare ups seemed to do the trick.
  13. by   Spidey's mom
    What about folks who burn leaves near school grounds? Don't want to start a separate thread.

    There is a rule up here in the mountains that you CAN burn leaves but not wet leave as they smolder and smoke more. I was at the elementary school two days ago and the kids on the playground were coughing and covering their mouths and noses with their coats, gagging from the smoke. I'm wondering about ordinances for schools.
  14. by   Flare
    that's a tough nut to crack - i would think that this would venture into a local ordinance type thing where leaves can't be burned in close proximity to a school during school hours, especially if it's a chronic issue. if it's isolated, then adminstation should probably just step up as needed to assess environmental conditions that may require the children to be indoors from time to time.