Allergic Teen Seeks High School Perfume Ban


No cell phones in school, no rough housing on the playground, no perfume in the hallway?

One Indiana high school could have a zero tolerance policy on cologne, perfume, and other sprayed body scents if concerned mother Janice Zandi wins a court case she's filed against the Fort Wayne Community High Schools for not banning the scents that her son J.Z. is allegedly allergic to.

Seventeen-year-old J.Z. has had to be treated for a reaction at school several times in the last year in connection with his allergy, thrice requiring an ambulance to nearby Parkview North Hospital, where he was treated for respiratory distress.

Claiming that the school district's refusal to protect her son with a fragrance ban violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Zandi filed the suit Nov. 12.

But several allergists contacted said they had never heard of an actual allergy to sprayed scents and noted that an allergy would be highly unlikely given the size of the particles in perfume.

"Generally we think of sprays as irritating to someone with asthma, but this is not a true allergy," says Dr. Wesley Burkes, chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at Duke University Medical Center.

Whether allergy or asthma, J.Z.'s case pushes the envelope on school liability concerning allergies. If won, the case could open up broader interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, allergists say.

Deadly Mist: Allergic to Recently Sprayed Scents?

According to the official complaint, J.Z. has never suffered an anaphylactic reaction outside of the school grounds and "can tolerate exposure to the normal scents found in contemporary American society, and reacts only to freshly sprayed perfumes, colognes, and body sprays (such as Axe) lingering in the air."

None of the allergist contacted by ABC News, however, had ever heard of an allergy to sprayed scents.

"I know of no documentation that they cause actual primary allergic reactions," agreed Dr. Miles Weinberger, director of Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Division at the University of Iowa. "It especially doesn't sound credible for allergy that various difference odors, sprays, and scents have triggered the reaction."

Perfume Sensitivity May Be Asthma

In the legal complaint, Zandi claims that allergy testing at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne that "confirmed that, when exposed to the mist of scented sprays intended for the human body, J.Z.'s respiratory passages literally close, restricting his ability to breathe. Medical personnel described this condition as "anaphylaxis", a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction which can lead to bronchoconstriction resulting in breathing difficulty, swelling, dizziness, shock and even death."

While perfumes and body sprays can often cause skin irritation or be aggravating to asthma, a true case of anaphylaxis, in which the body goes into shock, is not something any of the allergists contacted had heard of.

Because he has not treated J.Z. himself, Weinberger said that he would need further information regarding the nature of the testing performed on him, but he noted that it's possible for a "child to be having a psychological response with vocal cord dysfunction" instead of a true allergic reaction. "Never underestimate the power of mind-body interactions," he says.

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