Are You Allergic to Work?

Does going to work fill you with anxiety and cause your eyes to water and your head to throb? Turns out, some of these symptoms may not be your body begging you to give up and quit but instead may be the result of an allergy. That’s right – I’m saying you could be allergic to work. Good luck convincing your boss of this, though (especially if the weather is exceptionally nice or there’s a new “Star Wars” movie in theaters).

Symptoms of an Environmental Allergy

allergies at work Common symptoms of an allergy to your environment include:
  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Runny nose

  • Sneezing

If these symptoms occur after you get settled in for a day at the office, they are most likely being caused by something at work. While we would love to tell you that you are allergic to the job itself, it would be more accurate to say you are responding to irritants in the air. If you are one of the 50 million individuals in Portland and throughout the country with allergies, your allergist recommends staying clear of a few specific professions.

Jobs to Avoid

The following types of work should be avoided if you suffer from seasonal and environmental allergies. Landscaper. Working outside puts you in direct contact with molds and tree, grass and weed pollens. These are especially prevalent when working as a landscaper. Spa workers. Those who work in this type of environment are exposed to fumes and sprays that can trigger an allergy attack. Perfumes, hairsprays, soaps and chemicals used in this type of work can also affect those who are sensitive to smells. Housekeeping. Cleaning puts you at a high risk for exposure to indoor allergens such as dust and mold. Housekeepers can also be tasked with cleaning rooms where pets have been, which can add additional allergens. Construction work. Working in building and demolition puts you in direct contact with many types of dust and irritants.

Allergens in the Office

Now, back to the problems at your office job. While it may seem obvious that working outside will put you in contact with allergens, working inside a building can be just as bad. An office building is a breeding ground for mold, dust and irritants. The toxins secreted by the mold cause allergic reactions. Symptoms of a mold allergy are headaches, feelings of nausea and asthma complications. The most common type of office mold is stachybotrys; it is a black, sticky, slimy fungus. This mold is often found around water pipes, in the walls around plumbing or near a leaking room since it requires water to grow. Dust mites are usually found in warm, humid environments such as carpeting or upholstered furniture. The most common symptoms of a dust mite allergy are:
  • Sneezing
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Red, itchy or watery eyes
  • Wheezing
Central air conditioning, which is typically found in Portland office buildings, can cause allergy symptoms. If the filters are left unchanged any dust will be recirculated back into the air. Fragrance use, strong cleaning supplies and even heavily scented beauty products can lead to headaches, irritated eyes and breathing problems. Since these irritants often come from others around you, like coworkers and the cleaning staff, they are often hard to control. In order to combat this, many offices in Portland are becoming “fragrance free” by using unscented cleaning products and asking employees to refrain from using perfumes or colognes. If you are experiencing these symptoms on a regular basis, contact your Portland allergist. They will run a series of tests to determine what you are specifically allergic to and then use this information to create an individualized treatment plan. Contact your Portland doctor today to get started.