It is that time of year when the kiddos head back to school, and the topic of healthy classrooms starts to make the rounds. Teachers ask what they can diffuse in the classroom to keep their students calm, kill germs and get rid of general adolescent stank. I am afraid that the short answer is nothing.
As much as essential oils have the power to help people, they also have the power to harm. When you expose the public to essential oils, you are also exposing yourself to liability. In the case of diffusing in the classroom, the teacher may not know exactly what all conditions their students have. The students themselves may not even know that they have a certain condition. Essential oil exposure can trigger an allergic reaction, asthma attack or epileptic seizure. People often think of lavender as a generally safe and soothing essential oil; however, overexposure can lead to it having the opposite effect, especially in children with ADHD. Bergamot, another oil known for its relaxing properties, has been shown to raise blood pressure after prolonged use. Many essential oils can also interact with medications, including antidepressants and antianxiety medications. Unless a medication needs be administered while my child is at school, I wouldn’t likely share his list of medications with his teacher. And speaking of medications, essential oils should be treated like plant-based medicine and should not be administered without parental consent.
So, what can you do if you really want to use essential oils in the classroom? A great solution is a personal nasal inhaler. Inhalers are portable, can be made for all sorts of purposes, and nobody else will be able to smell them. Kids driving you up the wall? Carry an inhaler with relaxing oils like lavender, mandarin and patchouli. Feel a cold coming on? Keep a tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint and lemon inhaler on hand. Need to really cleanse the air in your classroom? Wait until the end of the day when all the kids have gone home before you run a diffuser with anti-viral oils. Your child can also carry an inhaler in their pocket if they are responsible enough to use as directed and not share with anybody else. They can also wear some form of diffuser jewellery that they can sniff throughout the day, such as an aroma pendant, or simply a leather or paracord bracelet with a few drops of oil.
The same principle applies for all public spaces, including shops, salons, offices and yoga studios. There are certain stores at the mall that give me an immediate headache from the diffusers running out front all day. It has absolutely nothing to do with the brand, but the actual chemical makeup of essential oils and the concentration of oils in the air. I would love to visit these stores to smell their blends and peruse their diffusers, but I can’t get past the door. I am sure that I am not the only customer they have lost.
I hope all goes well this school year, and you have a class filled with wonderful students. Please do not hesitate to drop me a line if you have questions on staying healthy and happy throughout the coming school year.
Shannon Bachorick is a Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional in Regina, Canada. Her focus is on emotional healing for those living with and at risk of developing autoimmune disorders, and the safe and responsible use of essential oils at all ages and stages of life.