SCHOOL & HEALTH | By Olivia Crook-Simiana
Every morning on the P.A. System, a Dartmouth High staff member reminds us that we are a scent aware school. We all know that it means that we are not supposed to spray or wear scented products in school, but do we know why?
According to Dr. Sandy Skotnicki-Grant, medical director of the Bay Dermatology Centre in Toronto, Ontario, fragrance is the most common cause of reactions in personal-care products. Furthermore, the medical director of the Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre, Dr. Roy Fox reports that roughly 16% of the population experiences sensitivity to environmental triggers and strong smells. According to a survey conducted in the United States, 30.5% of Americans reported being irritated by fragrances worn by others. These percentages are rising, which is part of the reason many schools have decided to ban scents.
Another reason schools like Dartmouth High have banned scents is to protect people with medical conditions that are triggered by strong odours. It doesn’t take much scent to affect people, even in very serious ways. The most common medical conditions influenced by scent are asthma, migraines, and allergies.
For someone with asthma, their lung function is affected when they are exposed to strong odours and it can cause them to have an asthma attack where their lungs tighten and they can’t get enough air to breath.
People with allergies can be very susceptible to scent-related reactions because there are many allergens used in scented products. Some of these allergens include wood, nuts, oak, maple, grass, and lavender. When someone with allergies breathes in the scent, it causes a reaction either in their eyes, throat, lungs, or nose in which their immune system overreacts to try and get rid of the irritant. Symptoms of these allergies can vary from watery eyes to anaphylaxis.
Migraines are very painful headaches that can also cause blurry vision, sensitivity to light, and vomiting. Migraines can come on very quickly, and they can last up to 72 hours. People who suffer from migraines have a heightened sensitivity to odours because the part of the brain that processes the odours is in the same area as the part of the brain that recognizes migraines and perception of pain.
There are many less intense reactions to scented products that include feeling nauseous, feeling tired, headaches, inability to concentrate, itching, hives, and coughing. Regardless of which symptoms occur to someone, nobody wants to feel this way, especially when they are in school. Dartmouth High has decided to ban scents so that none of their staff or students have to experience these uncomfortable reactions.
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Brownstein, Joe. “People with Asthma, Allergies Should Avoid Air Fresheners, Scented Products.” LiveScience, Purch, 7 Nov. 2011, www.livescience.com/16902-asthma-allergies-fragrance-home-products.html.
“More than ‘Just a Headache.’” The Migraine Trust, www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/more-than-just-a-headache/.
“How Do Odors Impact Migraine Sufferers?” How Do Odors Impact Migraine Sufferers? | Excedrin®, www.excedrin.com/migraines/causes/can-smells-cause-migraines/.