Work place and synthetic fragrances

I'm a school bus driver. I have a difficult student who passive aggressively wears a heavy fragrance. I have reached out to her, the assistant principal, my boss and the transportation department with no results or support. I open windows and use the fans. I suspect she puts more on after boarding the bus. I have been polite. What should I do? 


Comments 22

  • Brenda Silvia-Torma

    Hi L-Kay, I'm so sorry that you're experiencing this type of behavior from a student!! That is certainly frustrating. What are your symptoms from inhaling the heavy fragrances? Do you have headaches, difficulty breathing, etc?  I imagine the scent lingers in the bus after the student leaves?

    Could you try wearing a mask that prevents odors? I use a mask to block particle pollution and ozone and some of the community members use masks to block odors. Here a couple of links to mask-related community posts:

      Is there an HR department member that you can talk with about this issue?


    • L-Kay

      The students mother complained about me. I was told I can not yell a student that they can't wear perfume. (btw I didn't do) My boss is still kinda trying to help. I told him my asthma is getting worse when she's on the bus. He seemed concerned.

    • L-Kay

      Thanks Brenda, my chest gets tight, exhaling more difficult , coughing, I'm using my inhaler a few minutes before she boards and opening windows . I'm not allowed to cover my face. Safety restriction  when driving .

    • LK

      L-Kay,  I am so sorry you are having to deal with the perfume!    Strong scents are one of my triggers, too, so I know what you are dealing with – the coughing, shortness of breath, tight chest and lingering of all three even after the scent is gone are what happen to me.  

      I know the best option would be for her to not wear the perfume in such abundance but in case that does not happen, I have seen somewhere a small fan that you can wear on a lanyard, I think, around your neck that blows air up towards your face.  Perhaps something like that would keep the student's fragrances away from you enough?  


    • L-Kay

      Thanks Lisa, I am fortunate enough to have a fan and a window next to me. I have several windows opened a small amount also. I've had asthma for two years after critical pneumonia resulting in surgery to save my life. And being a newbie I am appalled that people don't take it seriously and that there isn't any legislation to protect asthmatics and their health.

    • LK

      I've only had mine for six years (I'm in my mid 50s) and it wasn't until about a year ago that I really started learning about it after I found these forums.  Just never knew anyone else who had severe asthma.  I admit, before I had it I just didn't know how severe it could be.  Everyone else I knew with asthma could use their inhaler once or twice and be just fine again.  

    • K8sMom2002

      L-Kay, hugs … this sounds really frustrating, especially that you can't wear a mask. 

      Have you thought about seeing if you can find an air purifier that would work off the bus' engine? There are some inverters that allow regular electrical appliances to run off car batteries, and you may already have a regular outlet wired into your bus.

      If so, could you start your hunt for an air purifier with the asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program?

      Here's a quote about it: 

      The asthma & allergy friendly™ Certification Program, administered by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) in partnership with the international research organization, Allergy Standards Limited (ASL), is an independent program created to scientifically test and identify consumer products that may reduce exposure to asthma triggers and allergens for people with asthma and allergies and may improve their indoor air quality. You can find certified products and services such as carpet cleaning, flooring, vacuums and more at 

    • Shea

      Asthma masks do not restrict driving and do not cover the eyes.  I would imagine to not allow you to wear a mask would be discrimination. There are some cute ones out there! 

       Once you wear it the student should see that her actions aren't affecting you and hopefully stop. Otherwise I'd ask to transfer to another bus because she is bullying you and that's be the easiest remedy. 

    • Marie E Natzke


      I'm sorry you are having a problem at work. I know it's not fun. The above is an advice column question and answer. You are not alone. I know that doesn't help you with the situation. 

    • K8sMom2002

      Marie, what a great advice column response! Thanks for sharing!

      Shea, good point about accommodations. 

      L-Kay, could you work to increase awareness about asthma and indoor air quality?

      Here are two blog posts that AAFA shared about the workplace and asthma:

    • L-Kay

      Thank you Melissa G, I spoke to someone who is going to try and help with the transportation department.  I have many windows open and today I ask the student to sit further away from me. I had an asthma attack this morning because of her. Ugh! I'm still working at it. 

    • Melissa G

      Oh my L-Kay! I am so sorry! How are you feeling this evening? Is there anyway you could get transferred to a different route?

    • MMKB

      Hi L-Kay,

      Please have your doctor write a letter regarding your asthma and fragrances. Please ask your doctor to explain the severity of your asthma, your current treatment and how fragrances negatively effective your breathing. Please have your doctor ask for their (your boss, HR department, students and parents) cooperation in this serious matter. Your doctor should explain what needs to be done (fragrance-free bus, change your bus route and etc) to help improve your breathing. Give the letter to your boss and HR department and ask for accommodations. For your records keep a daily asthma log listing any breathing problems, possible cause and what treatment was needed.

      I'm a special education teacher. After many severe asthma attacks from my students, my students' parents and my co-workers wearing fragrances, my administration is now supportive. It has helped when my doctor has written letters to the administration. It has also helped me when the administration,  co-workers, students and parents have witnessed my breathing problems that occur as a result of being exposed to fragrances. I have asked for accommodations such as posting a sign outside my classroom asking people not to enter if they are wearing fragrant hygiene products, writing a letter to the parents, writing a letter to my co-workers, making IEP meetings and staff meetings fragrance free and etc. 

      When needed I wear a Respro Allergy Mask. Sometimes I wear it when I'm driving and it does not interfere with my vision. 

    • K8sMom2002

      MMKB, so glad you're finally getting the support you need from your employer and your co-workers!

      L-Kay, I do hope that you, too, will get the support you need. You're not just thinking of yourself, but for the precious cargo that you are responsible for. You need to be in the best possible situation … and hopefully your employer will see that as well!

    • L-Kay

      Thank you. Still intense. No support from administration.  The administration has chosen to ignore the situation.  I reached out to the students for support last week while my perfume girl wasn't present. Hoping for peer pressure. They aren't happy about the opened windows now that it's cold weather. Keep praying please.

    • Melissa G

      @L-Kay has the situation gotten any better? Are you still opening the windows on the bus?