How to keep office allergies at bay
Are you allergic to your office? A new report from Allergy UK says that poor ventilation, lack of cleanliness, and even your pet-owning colleagues could be triggering sniffles and sneezes.
The organization carried out research involving 1,003 UK office workers, primarily allergy sufferers. The most reported allergy symptoms were headaches and lethargy, with more than a quarter of the respondents saying that their allergies worsened when at work.
In addition, 62% of respondents had also experienced itchy or watery eyes and 27% breathing difficulties over the last year in their office. The findings showed that 42% said that they had taken sick days from work in the last year due to allergies.
"It is difficult for individuals to exercise the same control over their workplace as they would do at home," says Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services. "Management of allergies becomes increasingly difficult when in communal spaces."
According to the report, hotspots around the office include the following:
Ventilation: Whether it's windows, vents, or an air conditioning system, workers should ensure they have clean air around them. In the survey only 15% of contributors said their offices were well ventilated.
Carpet: Carpets and soft furnishings are home to dust mite allergens, and some 90 percent of office workers reported that their workplace has carpeted floors.
Bookcases: 54% of those surveyed said they had open bookshelves, which harbor dust and allergens.
Plants: Plants in the office can be home to sneeze-inducing molds.
Printers: Printers and photocopiers can give off fumes, which could cause an adverse allergic effect for some people.
Your fellow colleagues can even trigger your reactions, especially if you have a pet allergy and sit within a meter of someone else.
Anti-allergy action plan
To help minimize allergic reactions in your office, Allergy UK recommends keeping your personal desk space clear and uncluttered, and damp-dust twice a week. You could also consider purchasing an air purifier for your desk to help remove allergens, such as pollen, mold, and dust mite debris.
For office plants, be sure to keep them watered and regularly remove the top soil to control molds. Hang coats away from your desk and other high-traffic areas to prevent dust and allergens from being released into the air, and drink plenty of water throughout the day.