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AAA: Can I Diffuse Essential Oils in the Classroom?

AAA: Can I Diffuse Essential Oils in the Classroom?

We’ve noticed a controversial topic brewing in the essential oil world for some time now: using essential oils in the classroom. A breeding ground for germs and viruses, a place where concentration is paramount and a generator of stress, the classroom seems like the perfect place to integrate supportive essential oils. We sincerely appreciate teachers that want their students to succeed academically while also caring for their wellbeing in a natural way. But when it comes to a classroom filled with students who have individual medical needs and preferences, a lot of factors must be assessed to ensure safe classroom diffusion. Let’s look at some of those factors.

Before prescribing medication, a good doctor does a thorough intake of each patient’s health, current medications, medical history, pre-existing conditions, etc. All of these are factors that may be contraindicated for any potential medications your doctor wishes to prescribe. Likewise, these factors should be considered before using essential oils, as they are not suitable for everyone.

Allergies & Asthma

We’ve come a long way in recent years to keep common allergens, like peanuts, out of schools, but did you know that essential oils can also cause allergic reactions? Essential oils contain haptens, which bind to proteins in the body and canstimulate an allergic reaction. It should be noted that allergic reaction from inhalation is much rarer than allergic reaction from topical use, and this primarily concerns sensitive individuals. Avoiding essential oils students are allergic to is a must.

Asthma is another factor that should be considered. Affecting 1 in 13 people, classrooms are likely to have at least one student with asthma. Essential oils have been known tobenefit people with asthma, as well as set off anasthma attack. If students have asthma, the classroom is not the best place to introduce new aromas and test whether or not it is a trigger to them.

Drug Interactions

In a recent article, we discussedessential oils’ influence on medication. Essential oils are powerful substances and have the ability to affect the metabolism of drugs, rendering drugs less effective and producing undesirable side effects. It is, therefore, best to avoid using essential oils that can affect one’s medications. Intake of students’ medications is necessary to avoid drug interactions with essential oils. 

Aroma Preference & Sensitivities

Aroma is subjective, so what one person loves another person may despise. When you have a classroom filled with individuals, you’re likely to get different preferences in aroma and aroma strength. An unpleasant aroma can be distracting and produce undesirable effects like stress and frustration. Furthermore, some may be more sensitive to aromas than others, preferring little to no detectable aroma. A universally liked essential oil and aroma strength should be agreed upon in the classroom to ensure an enjoyable diffusion experience.

Further Safety Concerns

We always recommend doing research and following aromatherapy safety guidelines prior to using essential oils. Some essential oils have added safety concerns, such as Birch and Wintergreen, which should not be used by those who are prone to seizures or who have ADD/ADHD. It should also be noted that essential oils are most beneficial whendiffused for a limited amount of time. Safety precautions increase whenusing essential oils with young children. Diffusion time should be reduced and unsafe oils for children (such as Eucalyptus and Peppermint) must be avoided. Each oil you use in the classroom, including individual oils in blends, should be assessed for safety concerns and considered when looking at students’ health and medical concerns.

Bottom Line

There are many factors that should be assessed before using essential oils. This is a tedious task for the average household, let alone a classroom (oftentimes multiple classrooms) filled with students. Parent permission is another necessity to avoid litigation. Unless you’re willing to go the distance of getting every student’s medical intake and assessing each factor when choosing essential oils, we do not recommend classroom diffusion. If you wish to use essential oils in the classroom, we recommend you use essential oils topically or in a  personal pocket inhaler, so that you benefit from the oils without affecting others.

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1 Response

Pat Asher

October 24, 2019

My youngest is a middle school classroom teacher. She has found a way to use essential oils in the classroom that has yet to raise alarm or cause a reaction in anyone who enters her classroom. She uses Healthy Hero in a spray bottle (properly diluted) to mist and wipe each desk and common student areas before leaving her classroom each and every evening. All the constituents (she is a science teacher and understands how these things work) are rendered inert before student return, but they have already done the job by then. She arrives at school a full hour or more before the students in the mornings, and sometimes does a quick 15 to 30 minutes diffusion of Study Buddy. Again, there is a full 30 minutes before any student enters her classroom. If she is expecting a student earlier for tutoring or make up work, she either goes in earlier herself so she has adequate time, or she skips the morning diffusing.
Her fellow teachers are aware that she sometimes diffuses, and will drift in to chat for a moment. They say they go back to their classrooms ready to meet the day. (She has made several of them personal inhalers, which they LOVE.
She also uses personal inhalers and hand cream infused with a very low amount Healthy Hero (for her own use only to protect her own health and to curb spreading) during the day if any student is displaying signs of sickness.
No student is exposed to more than the minutest amount of any essential oil, and she feels good about her classroom being as safe as it can be for her students.
She has discussed both her in classroom use of essential oils and safeguards in place to keep the oils away from students during the school day with her principle, who has approved and is doing their own research into this area.
BTW, my daughter hasn’t missed a day due to sickness in 3 years, about the same time she started her before and after school oils routine. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so.