Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day is hard enough. Who needs the added stress of sniffling and reaching for a tissue every five minutes? Are your allergies worse at work than anywhere else? If so, the copy machine toner or chemicals used at your job may be the culprit. In fact, there are many products in today’s workplaces that might cause allergic reactions.
Most of the things that pollute the air indoors and could trigger allergy symptoms in an office come from adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machine chemicals, pesticides and cleaning agents. These things can emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have been known to trigger allergy symptoms.
Although these irritants may cause allergy-like reactions, the symptoms may actually be due to something called chemical sensitivity, which is not a true allergy. Actual allergies cause the immune system of an allergic person to react, whereas irritants or chemicals can simply aggravate the respiratory tracts of some people without triggering an immune system reaction. People who also have true allergies to other substances may experience both allergies and chemical sensitivities.
Offending Air Inside and Out
It’s not just what’s lurking directly inside the workplace that might start you sneezing and wheezing. Outdoor air can also pollute your indoor space. Car exhaust, plumbing gas and waste fumes from bathrooms and kitchens can compromise office air through badly located air intake vents, windows and other openings.
Unless you are incapacitated by allergy-type symptoms at work, leaving your job may not be an option. Try the following to help reduce invisible allergens and irritants:
• Use an air purification system near your work area. Portable air purifiers are widely available in retail stores.
• Keep potted plants nearby. NASA found many years ago from space experiments that certain plants do a good job of removing VOCs in the air. A couple of examples are snake plants and ficus. If you’re in an office, these healthy plants will help to remove some of these indoor chemicals to provide a cleaner, breathable area.
If you still can’t get allergy symptoms under control at work, it may be time to visit a doctor who specializes in treating this condition, known as an allergist/immunologist. This doctor can do several things to treat your allergies, such as: