Raising a Stink about Perfume for RC Week
As my first RC week as an RRT approaches, I sit and wonder what it is all about. For Nurses Week the hospital staff does everything they can to swoon over the nurses: They give them gifts, they order lunch out for the week, and there are raffles and balloons.
But, then Respiratory Care Week comes and there is maybe a day of pizza lunch and a sign in the department. This leads me to wonder if the week should be renamed Respiratory Appreciation Week or if it is more a time for us therapists to go out and educate the public on respiratory information. Either way, from what I have seen, it is not celebrated appropriately.
There is a respiratory topic that has been on my mind lately that I would like to educate the public on and that is perfume! This is the arch nemesis of respiratory therapists everywhere. I had a patient a couple of weeks ago who called for a PRN and when I walked in the room I couldn't breathe! I felt like someone took the air right out of my lungs, and I do not have respiratory disease. There was enough perfume in the room that I could smell it all the way down at the nurses station (five rooms away.)
I educated the wheezy patient about perfume and reactive airways and explained to her the reason she cannot breathe; she insisted it had nothing to do with the perfume.
I spoke with the nurse on duty who waved me off with, "Well, she doesn't listen." The nurse didn't really care because this is not her area. After I scoured the hospital for an exhaust fan to break up the smell in the room, the patient was breathing fine again. Well, two hours goes by and I receive another call for this patient ... I go downstairs and voilà: Fan is off, more perfume is on, patient is wheezing again!
This is not just an ailment of hospitalized patients. I was in the mall a few times with my nephew who has asthma and a group of teenage girls, or older ladies, or just some women with dampened olfactory senses, would go by with their buckets of perfume on and he would break out into an all-out wheeze session which would require him to use his "pumper." When I asked him about it he said it happens "whenever the smelly ladies walk by."
I wish there was some type of law against perfume use right up there with smoking! What is the difference to an asthmatic the source of their inability to breath? I get headaches from perfume and scents, so being trapped in the theater behind sally-sprays-a-lot sucks for me too, but not as much as it does for those people who stop breathing as a result of someone else's inconsideration. Maybe for RC week I will make little cards up with a perfume bottle with the circle and line through it (like you see for smoking) and educate the public.