Spring is in the air, which is usually a good thing, unless you suffer from allergies. Sneezing, wheezing, coughing and runny or itchy eyes can make it tough to get through the work day, with lost focus and lost productivity.
It is said that 10 to 30 percent of the American population suffers from allergic “rhinitis,” which is an inflammation of the nasal airways caused by breathing in allergens.
Allergies are among the top three reasons people miss work, and they can have a significant effect on productivity, so it’s very important for business owners to recognize that they should do some simple things that can reduce anyone’s exposure to allergens and other irritants.
One of the most common allergens in homes, dust mites are often passively carried form home to the workplace. Eggs can be carried into the office environment on clothing. Carpets, upholstered furniture and even cubicle walls may give harbor to dust mites. Requesting frequent carpet cleaning and dusting your work area with a microfiber cloth or wet rag can help reduce dust mites in your work area. Some recommend installing a small HEPA (for “high efficiency particulate air”) cleaner to clean the space around your immediate work area.
Even if you work in a pet-free building, you may be exposed to cat and dog hair. Pet hair is carried on clothing and becomes part of the indoor environment. If possible, avoid placing allergy sufferers and pet owners in the same workspaces and provide hair removal rollers at the office.
Seasonal allergens such as pollen can enter the workplace through ventilation, and through the opening and closing of windows. Make sure that your office has good air filtration. Changing air filters regularly and proper maintenance of heating and air conditioning systems at least twice a year are recommended.
Cleaning fluids and air fresheners release volatile organic compounds into our air, too. These fumes can irritate lungs causing respiratory distress and shortness of breath. Avoid using plug-ins and aerosol air fresheners and switch to cleaning products with no “VOCs”.
And you may want to encourage employees to get an allergy test. They may think you know what triggers their allergies, but they could be wrong. Managing allergies requires knowing what your triggers are. One example is the employee who thought she was working in a building that was full of mold, dust and poor air quality, but allergy testing showed it wasn’t the building. She was allergic to cat hair. Her runny nose and itchy eyes were a result of her allergies being triggered by her cat-owning co-worker who had carried her pet’s hair to the office on her clothing. Consult with a certified allergy specialist to do an accurate assessment of allergy triggers. And while allergy medications like antihistamine medication may ease allergy symptoms, they can also have you falling asleep in the boardroom. Try taking a non-sedating antihistamine or asking your doctor about getting an allergy shot which may provide longer-term relief without the drowsy side effects.
Above all, maintaining a clean and healthy work environment with regular inspections, professional and detailed cleaning, and properly operating heat and air filters and systems, will help keep you and your team allergy-free and happy to better enjoy the spring.