Continuing our focus on Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, we’re spotlighting how you can stay healthy, safe, and productive in the office during peak allergy season.
The pandemic has changed the world of work, and many companies are adopting fresh new ways to motivate employees to return to the office. How can employers provide an engaging, collaborative workplace while creating a safe, healthy environment for those with chronic allergies?
26% of U.S. adults have seasonal allergies triggered by environmental factors from tree pollen to dust mites, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA).
Dr. Melissa Schwartz, founder of the Montgomery County ENT Institute says, “Some of the most common office allergens include dust mites, mold, and cockroaches. Dust mites are microscopic organisms that live in the dust around desks, bookshelves, and those annoying dust bunnies in the corners of rooms. Depending on the type of HVAC in your office or workplace, dust can be blown through the ducts and vents whenever the system turns on, and rarely are those ducts professionally cleaned.
“The same goes for mold which produces spores that circulate around in the air. Mold can develop in any location where there has been moisture – such as leaky pipes, roof surfaces, and flooded areas. It can be hidden behind the walls and is often difficult to find. The most common mold in damp spaces is the black mold called Aspergillus. Additionally, older buildings in urban areas can have cockroach infestations. These insects leave droppings which become airborne allergens that many people are allergic to,” continued Dr. Schwartz.
According to WebMD, chronic allergies are the number 2 reason adults miss work – with the average worker with allergies missing an hour a week per year. During peak seasonal allergy periods, allergy sufferers can miss up to 32 hours of work in a week.
A recent study with over 2,000 consumers commissioned by Tivic Health shows that those with moderate to severe allergies take behavioral steps to mitigate their symptoms – which includes 11% of them missing work.
In addition to lost productivity, environmental allergens in the workplace can also potentially lead to serious health conditions for employees.
“Many individuals will notice chronic nasal congestion, sinus pressure or pain, headaches, and postnasal drip from these indoor allergens. Some may develop wheezing or asthma-type symptoms, lung infections or fungal infections in the sinuses that can be deep seeded, requiring surgical intervention to eradicate,” adds Dr. Schwartz.
What can employers do to improve their office environment, to minimize the impact of workplace allergens? Dr. Schwartz recommends the following:
- Employers should keep their HVAC systems up to date with routine maintenance, and clean filters every 3 months.
- Air purification systems can be very helpful especially if the work environment is dusty by nature.
- Routine dusting, mopping, and vacuuming by housekeeping services are also helpful.
- Water damage should be handled and restored as soon as possible to avoid the development of mold. Professional treatment of the areas affected by mold can render the area as good as new.
How can employees protect themselves? Dr. Schwartz shares these tips:
- Get an accurate diagnosis, including knowing what you’re allergic to.
- Minimize exposure to the offending allergens.
- Manage exposure proactively – e.g., if you are allergic to dust, investing in an air purifier for your office space would be beneficial. Be sure to measure the room as these devices have different specs based on the square footage of the space.
- Use a saline nasal rinse after work. This will literally wash the allergens from the nasal passages and reduce the amount of contact with the nasal tissues thereby reducing symptoms.
Consider using Tivic ClearUP, a non-invasive bioelectronic sinus device that treats nasal congestion and sinus pain/pressure associated with seasonal allergies. ClearUP is 100% chemical-free and provides rapid, lasting relief, allowing patients to breathe more easily.
Employer Guide to Managing Allergies in the Workplace (ADP)
Asthma and Allergies in the Workplace (CDC)
An Industry Ripe for Innovation – The Most Common Pain Points, Workarounds, and Alternative Solutions to Treat Congestion, Head Pain, and Allergies (Tivic Health)
 Intelligo Insights study with over 2,000 consumers commissioned by Tivic Health Q1/2023.