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Putting Allergies Out of Work

Have allergies got you falling asleep on the job?

What Triggers Your Allergies at Work?

Allergies don’t just follow you to work; they can be triggered there as well. Dust mites, pollens, and molds are common and invisible allergy triggers in the workplace.  These allergens get trapped in tightly insulated and poorly ventilated office buildings. While you can’t see them, you can feel their impact.

Environmental hazards can also trigger allergies at work. These fumes cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and respiratory distress. If you have ever sniffed cleaning fluid in a non-ventilated area, you know that chemicals can make it hard to breathe.

How to Identify Allergy Triggers at Work

Go through your workplace to look for allergy triggers that may bother you. Common allergens include:

  • Aerosols
  • Chemical fumes
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Cockroaches
  • Cold air
  • Dust
  • Fresh paint
  • Humid air
  • Mold and mildew
  • Perfume and scented products (from co-workers)
  • Pet dander (from co-workers’ clothing)
  • Pollen
  • Tobacco smoke and wood smoke
  • Weather fronts
  • Wind

Depending on your job, you may also be exposed to:

  • Animal-derived material (such as dander and secretions)
  • Plant and vegetable products (cotton or grain dust)
  • Wood dusts
  • Chemicals
  • Dyes
  • Fumes
  • Salts


3 Tips for Taking Charge of Your Allergies at Work

Marshall suggests these ways to manage your allergies on the job.

  • Make sure your work area is well ventilated and has proper humidity to minimize molds. Marshall suggests less than 50% humidity for an indoor office.
  • See to it that your work area is dusted regularly.
  • If you clean your own workplace, protect your nose with a mask.

What if you’re a painter or do construction work?  “Then your ability to reduce exposure to allergy triggers is limited,” says Martin. In fact, it may be difficult to change your work environment without losing your job. In that case, you may want to talk to your doctor about the best allergy medications for you.

Stay Alert With Better Allergy Medicines

Uncontrolled allergies at work can make it difficult to focus for two reasons, says Martin, “because of allergy symptoms or the medicine you take.”

To stay alert with allergies at work, try a non-sedating antihistamine such as Allegra or Claritin. If these do not provide total relief, ask your doctor about a nasal steroid spray. There are also non-sedating oral medications that help control allergies, such as Singulair.

Remember also that decongestants usually have pseudoephedrine (Sudafed), a stimulant. “The decongestants may counter the drowsiness from antihistamines,” says Martin.

Reviewed on March 31, 2009

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