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 can stimulate 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 to benefit people with asthma, as well as set off an asthma 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.
In a recent article, we discussed essential 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 when diffused for a limited amount of time. Safety precautions increase when using 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 LineThere 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.