Ah, fall. The perfect time to get outside for long walks in the neighborhood, hikes in the hills, and autumn gardening.
But that "ah" can quickly become "ah-choo" if you're one of the 36 million Americans with seasonal allergy problems. The runny nose, itchy eyes, and congestion -- all typical fall allergy symptoms -- can slow you down and make you miserable.
While there have been no dramatic advances recently in allergy treatment, experts say if you are allergy-prone, you can take a number of...
"Allergy symptoms are the No. 2 reason adults miss work," says James
Sublett, MD, a board-certified asthma and allergy specialist in Louisville,
The average worker with allergies misses about one hour per week over the
course of a year. But that sick time is often concentrated during peak allergy
periods. An Ohio State University study showed that allergy sufferers can miss
up to 32 hours of work in a week when allergens are at their peak. And with 20
to 50 million Americans suffering from some form of seasonal allergies, all
that lost work really adds up.
The effect of allergies at work has been called "presenteeism" --
being at work, but out of it. A 2001 study in a telephone call center found a
significant correlation between spiking pollen counts and decreased
productivity -- about 10% -- for workers with allergies.
How Can You Manage Allergies at Work?
Experts recommend a three-pronged approach that includes:
Diagnosis must come first -- even if you think you already know what you're
Get Allergy Tests
"Many people assume they know what triggers their allergies, but they
can be wrong," says Cascya Charlot, MD, a board-certified allergy and
asthma specialist who practices in Brooklyn, N.Y. "You can start managing
allergies by protecting yourself from allergens, but that's hard to do if you
don't know what your triggers are."
Once you've seen an allergist for an accurate assessment of your allergies,
it's time to figure out how to minimize exposure to the allergens. That's
easier to do if you're at home, where you control the environment. But there
are things you can do at work to try to keep allergens at bay.
Manage Your Work Environment to Limit Allergens
"Many large office buildings already have air filtration systems, but
smaller offices are more likely to have problems," says Sublett. "You
can ask your office manager if they could change the filters in their air
systems to high-efficiency filters -- MRV11 or MRV12 filters have the best
rating. If they change them out every three months, it costs about 50 cents to
a dollar per week, which is pretty inexpensive."