Handling hayfever in the workplace

hayfeverAn estimated 21 million adults in the UK suffer with at least one allergy. Some of these may be mild, and some maybe more serious, putting people at risk of severe allergic reactions like anaphylactic shock. Most people know exactly how to avoid their triggers, and when in a controlled environment like their home, they can ensure they stay allergy free.

However, at work, most people have far less control over things like the ventilation system, the location of their desk or workstation, the temperature and humidity, and even the materials used on the job. This can be a leading factor

A 2012 study by Allergy UK surveyed office workers, primarily allergy sufferers, asking them about their office environment and how it affects them. 95% of respondents said they had experienced allergy symptoms in the workplace, including key hayfever symptoms such as, nasal problems, eye conditions, dry throats, breathing difficulties, lethargy, head aches and skin irritations. The summer season and hot weather doesn’t help either, outside of the office pollen counts will sky rocket and pollution levels can increase, especially in big cities.

According to Allergy UK there are numerous hotspots around the office that can have implications for allergy sufferers. Dust mites, pollens and moulds are common visible allergy triggers. These allergen triggers get trapped in office buildings, as well as in things like carpeted floors, cluttered desks and dusty store rooms. These types of issues can affect other allergies such as asthma, skin irritations (rashes or itchiness) and migraines too.

If employees’ allergies are being triggered in the workplace, employers can carry out risk assessments to identify and remove those triggers. Employees can also take steps to lessen their allergies at work, here’s some top tips for handling allergies at work:

Ensure your office is properly ventilated
Having clean air around you is extremely important. However, keep the windows closed during the early morning and late afternoon, this is when the pollen count is at its highest. Allowing the room to ventilate during the day should be enough to clean the air in and around your office. The introduction of air conditioning can be a real help and a good compromise for all employees.

Ensure your desks are tidy
Ensuring desks are regularly cleared and cleaned, so they don’t harbour any dust or allergens. This will help to ensure the risk of suffering the allergic reactions are minimised, as well as keeping the office tidy!

Taking care of plants will take care of your allergies
If there are plants in the office, ensuring they are regularly watered and healthy will help clear the air, we all know plants improve the air around us and chances are if they’ve been indoors for a while the risk of a high pollen count will be low. Ensuring the topsoil is removed regularly, will help reduce the risk of mould too.

Put your coats away
Some days employees may wake up or start to have symptoms very early on, before they’ve even got to work they could be on their second packet of tissues. By hanging coats and jackets in a separate room, or even away from the main working area, like their car for example. Will ensure any clinging triggers such as pet hair, dust and of course pollen are left far away from your base for the next 8 hours.

Extreme but clean
Severe hayfever symptoms can leave sufferers dreading going to work each morning and fearing the social awkwardness that comes with a red snotty nose – particularly if they have to meet with managers and clients. Taking time off can cause anxiety and stress issues for employees. So it maybe worth considering whether it’s appropriate for an employee to work from home during high pollen season. Let’s face it – they’ll be more comfortable blowing their nose and sneezing in privacy than at their desk!

Hayfever is not a condition to be taken lightly, with little effort and attention to prevention as well as treatment with the usual medications – when needed – you can get the workforce back to working productively, comfortably and successfully.

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