Skip to main content

What's that smell?

One of your colleagues has body odour. What should you do? Don't be brutal, be honest, advises Hannah Frankel.

Even Solomon would struggle to judge this one. Your seemingly oblivious colleague is emitting a terrible smell. Other staff are talking about it and pupils are beginning to snigger. Do you a) tell them and risk hurting their feelings, b) do nothing and hope the problem goes away, or c) leave deodorant and soap in their pigeonhole and hope they get the hint?

That is the teachers' hot topic on The TES online staffroom ( Some of the responses suggest brutal tactics ("say 'cor, you stink. Been running? Try this deodorant' and then leg it pronto") to more sensitive approaches which seem good in theory but difficult and embarrassing in practice.

One teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, took it upon herself to act when a colleague had terrible body odour.

"The smell got so strong that staff vied to sit as far away from her as possible, and using the lavatory after her made one retch," she tells The TES Magazine. "Staff talked about the problem behind her back, the children in her class said it made them feel sick and several of them talked to me about it."

According to this teacher, the situation needs to be dealt with quickly, sensitively and firmly. Hints or anonymous notes may appear tactful but are, in reality, cowardly, hurtful and ineffectual, she adds.

"In a quiet moment I told her and sympathised that it happens to me too when I've been rushing about all day. She looked a bit awkward so I gave her a hug and she said thank you. She obviously took it to heart because it cleared up almost overnight. She can't have had any idea she smelt.

"I think most people would be mortified to know they had BO and that people were talking about it."

People who are overweight, who exercise, are anxious, or have certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease, are more likely to suffer from excessive sweating or body odour.

According to Dr Gemma Anson, a GP from south London, regular washing of both yourself and your clothes should help, along with open shoes to let your feet breathe as much as possible. "Powerful antiperspirants such as Driclor or Perspirex can help," Dr Anson says.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you