OPIRG: Asthma and the student

It’s your first day of the new semester and everything is set. Walking into your class you smell new scents. The person beside you has perfume on and you love it. You watch unfamiliar people file into the classroom. A new person catches your attention as they sit down. Happy, you smile at them, welcoming them to the class.

Then you hear something that is called ‘wheezing’, and you wonder where it is coming from. The wheezing turns into loud coughing. All eyes turn to the person you just watched come in. Something is not right, and you ask yourself, what could be wrong?

You notice they pull out a puffer, signifying they have asthma. You do not know what to do. In the next few weeks they miss classes, and you become worried about them. What caused the attack the first day? You wonder how you can help them.

The World Health Organization estimates that about 235 million people suffer from asthma worldwide. On the home front, asthma is an issue for Canada’s health system. In 2010 Statistics Canada stated that 8.5% of Canadians over 12 have asthma. Each year, 146 000 ER visits are due to asthma, and about 500 adults die from it. September has the highest percentage of ER visits on account of asthma.

In 2010, health care for chronic lung diseases cost Canada’s economy $12 billion. Even with these alarming facts, asthma is still on a spike. We do not have time to watch it increase. Efforts to properly manage respiratory diseases are necessary to avoid the estimated doubling of this economic burden by 2030. Students’ lives are at risk here and now.

Worldwide, it is estimated that by 2025 asthma will affect 100 million more people than current statistics state. Yearly worldwide deaths from asthma can reach up to 250 000 people. It is our right as Canadians to live healthily and have an education. Every person with asthma at Trent or Fleming has, like you, paid to be there.

The Lung Association’s “No Scents Make Sense” is becoming a strong campaign in bringing awareness to asthma. However, how is this meant to work for asthmatics, when people do not follow it? Students, professors, and staff need to stand up and enforce it. There is a need now more than ever to make a law that no scents may be allowed in public areas.

The voices of Canadians living with this horrible disease need to be heard. It takes one simple step: not wearing scented products to classes. Asthmatics deserve to be in class, and that right is too easily taken away from them. No one should have to face the risk of a hospital visit simply by going to class. I have been in this position, and know that something as inessential as scent should not have such an effect on my education.