Is Fragrance Sensitivity a Disability under ADA?

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Sprays and perfume in the classroom is an asthmatic trigger for my son!  Spraying Lysol is another concern.

The school says they can not include this in his 504 plan because asking the teacher not to use perfume “breaks the teacher’s amendment.”

Where can I get the correct information to protect my child from having an asthma attack in class?

Disability under ADA / Section 504

Your son has a 504 plan. It sounds like he has a “fragrance sensitivity” or respiratory impairment. This is a disability under ADA/504.

It also sounds like the school’s position is that they can’t ask the teacher to stop using perfume in school, even though it may trigger as asthma attack.  Same with spraying Lysol while your son is in the classroom.

I did a quick Google search – there is a lot of information available if you are persistent in looking.

(1.)  Contact this organization

Food Allergy Research and Education at
If they can’t help you, I’m sure they know who can.

(2.) Read these articles to help you gain a clearer understanding of the issues and how to present solutions. Although some of these links are about adults / employees in the workplace, the same principles apply to a child who must attend school.

Fragrance Sensitivity is a Disability under ADA

“A recent court ruling means that some employers will have to ban perfume, cologne and other scents in the workplace.”

“In McBride v. City of Detroit, senior city planner Susan McBride was awarded $100,000. In addition, the City of Detroit (the employer) agreed to revise its ADA handbook and training, and to post notices about the fragrance-free policy.”

New ADA Guidelines for Fragrance Sensitivity

“Employers need to be aware that allergies to fragrance or multiple chemical sensitivities can be disabilities under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

“This was amply illustrated in a recent post on McBride v. the City of Detroit that ruled senior city manager Susan McBride’s chemical sensitivity was a disability under ADA because it interfered with the major life activity of breathing.”

“According to the Job Accommodation Network or JAN, [ ] there are a number of ways that employers can accommodate workers with fragrance allergies or chemical sensitivities. JAN is a great resource for any employer dealing with an accommodation issue under ADA.”

Accommodations: Employees with a Respiratory Impairment – describes respiratory impairments and common accommodations the school or workplace should make.

Publications is from the U.S. Department of Education

(1.) Protecting Students with Disabilities: Frequently Asked Questions About Section 504 and Education of Students with Disabilities

(2.) The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehab Act

(3.) Parent and Educator’s Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. This was published in December 2016 and is excellent and readable.

These should get you started in becoming an expert about how Section 504 protects kids like your son.

You’ll find more information and resources on the Wrightslaw page at –

Episodic Conditions such as Allergies, Asthma, Epilepsy

Good luck!

  1. Hi.

    How do you submit a question to the HELPline part of your website? It’s not obvious how to do this.


    • Hi Parent. We switched to a Q & A Database a couple of months ago. If you see a subject that relates to you, send a comment. Folks will chime in with their experiences and suggestions. You will also find Blog Posts from Wrightslaw that will help. Thank you for asking.

  2. Pam,
    I understand your dilemma far too well, having had a son in elementary school with asthma and a severe peanut allergy. I agree with all the suggestions above, but would also suggest that you ask the school administration to work with you and keep your son healthy and safer by providing a teacher who is willing to go without scented cleaning materials and fragrances. (One of my son’s teachers refused to have his epipen in her drawer because she was unwilling to give the shot. We fought that because the difference between life and death could be less than five minutes if my son ingested peanuts, It ended up that the medicine was in her drawer and available for someone other than her to administer.)

    Just know that you are not alone.

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