Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on November 02, 2020

Working Outdoors and Pollen

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All outdoor workers are exposed to pollen. But it may be especially hard on people who work directly with and around trees and grasses. Mowing, trimming, or blowing grasses and leaves only make allergies worse. Wear a mask, gloves, hat, and long-sleeved shirt when working. Shower and change clothes as soon as possible after work to limit contact with allergens.

Weather, Working, and Allergies

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Landscapers and groundskeepers should try working in the late afternoon, when the pollen concentration is lower. If you must work early in the day, wear a mask. Pollen is less agitated when it’s cool or cloudy. Check the daily pollen count to determine the level of airborne allergens and whether you should take extra precautions.

Salon and Spa Workers

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Allergy sufferers working in salons or spas, take note. While not an allergen, fumes from chemicals in nail and beauty products can irritate sensitive nasal membranes. Keep your work space ventilated. Instead of chemical-based aerosol hair sprays, use water-based pump sprays. Use pre-mixed hair colorants rather than mixing easily inhaled powder dyes with water.

Housekeeping and Cleaning Staff

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Housekeepers and custodial staff come into contact with pollen, dust, and mold in air conditioners, upholstery, rugs, and bathrooms. Before cleaning, make sure the room is well-ventilated. Wear a mask while working. Use a damp or treated cloth to clean furniture. A vacuum with a HEPA filter or double-filtered bags will minimize the spread of irritants.

Working With Garden Items

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Mulch and wood chips can carry pollen and mold spores. To protect themselves from allergens while handling mulch and other garden items, nursery workers should wear a mask, gloves, and long-sleeved shirt. Florists with allergies should also wear a mask and gloves, especially while working with open blooms.

When Your Clients Have Four Legs

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Veterinarians and animal groomers come into constant contact with furry animal coats, which trap pollen, dust, and dander. A HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner and in the central heating and air conditioning system of your office may help remove airborne allergens. But there are far more allergens lurking on surfaces like counters, rugs, and tabletops. Floors should be uncarpeted and cleaned thoroughly each day.

At the Office

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Office workers aren’t immune to irritants. Computers, copiers, and other office equipment attract dust. They must be regularly cleaned and maintained. Use a can of compressed air to clean computer keyboards and vents. Pollen tracked in from outdoors clings to even low-nap carpet. Vacuum daily with a good-quality HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.

Allergy Risks in Older Buildings

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Older buildings may contain more dust and mold than modern ones. Proper ventilation is critical. Air cleaners with HEPA filters should be added to the heating and air conditioning system. If your building is being renovated, limit employee exposure to stirred-up irritants. Erect a barrier of plastic sheeting between employees and the renovation work space.

Driving a Service Vehicle

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Delivery people, letter carriers, and bus and cab drivers work in their vehicles and can be affected by outdoor allergens. Start the air conditioner or heater as soon as you get in the vehicle. Travel with the windows closed to avoid breathing pollen and other irritants. Keep the vehicle interior as clean as possible. Wipe it down and vacuum it frequently.

Waiters and Hospitality Staff

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Secondhand cigarette smoke can trigger allergies. Even with sophisticated air filters, it is nearly impossible for bars, casinos, and other places where smoking is allowed to clear the air of irritants that can aggravate rhinitis. If you must work in this type of environment, make sure the rooms are ventilated and take regular breaks in fresh air.

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Show Sources


(1)    Rick Rudnicki / Lonely Planet Images
(2)    Melanie Friend
(3)    Amanda Koster / Photonica
(4)    Andrea Chu / Digital Vision
(5)    Medioimages / Photodisc
(6)    Comstock Images
(7)    Christian Hoehn / Stone
(8)    Katherine Cho / Flickr
(9)    Scott Montgomery / Workbook Stock
(10)    Erik Snyder / Digital Vision


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
American Academy of Family Physicians.
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
Cathy Brim, owner, Bloom Floral Design, Atlanta.
Environmental Protection Agency.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.
Occupational Airways.
Thomas Leo Ogren, MS, author, Allergy-Free Gardening, Safe Sex in the Garden,
Vermont Department of Health.