READING: How to cope with hayfever at work

Living my life

How to cope with hayfever at work

Do you downplay your hayfever symptoms at work? If so, your colleagues and managers may not understand how miserable you feel. It may be time to speak up and get the support and understanding you deserve.

Two min read

Living with hayfever can be challenging at the best of times, but did you know it can prevent you from doing your best at work?1

Your productivity can drop when you experience hayfever symptoms and hay fever is a known cause of people taking sick days.

Try not to downplay your hay fever when speaking to your colleagues and managers. They can't be sympathetic or take steps to reduce allergens in the office if they don’t know how you are feeling.

It may help to explain your symptoms and the medicines you take in a way that helps them understand.

Talking to your colleagues about hayfever

People often dismiss hayfever as a minor issue, and that includes hayfever sufferers.2

When talking about your hayfever, try to use language or examples to which your colleagues can relate.

For example, comparing your stuffy nose to feeling like you have a bad cold might be more convincing than underplaying it and saying your nose is a bit stuffy.

If you are feeling tired, people may be more understanding if you explain that you struggled to sleep the night before because of your hayfever.

Equally, you might get more empathy if you explain that you need medicine to help you breathe properly and to prevent your eyes from itching.

How to ’treat’ your workplace

If you experience hayfever because of triggers in your workplace, it may be a good idea to tell your employer so you can work together to reduce your exposure.3

Pollen at work – Don’t worry. The flowers in reception are unlikely to trigger your hay fever. It is usually pollen from trees, grasses and weeds that cause hayfever. You may want to ask your colleagues to keep the windows closed on windy days to stop pollen from blowing in.

Dust mites at work - If you have an allergy to dust mites, a major irritant at work could be the air conditioning. Filters inside the units are designed to trap dust before it is released into the air. However, if these filters aren’t cleaned, they can become clogged with dust particles, which are then pumped into the air.
Cleaning filters is the best way to maintain good air quality in the office, but this may be overlooked. Mention to your office manager that clogged aircon units have to work much harder to circulate air, thus using more energy and ultimately costing more.

Mould at work – If mould triggers your allergies, you may want to ask your employer to take similar precautions to what you would do at home. This may be easier if you have a note from your GP explaining that mould can make you feel unwell.

Mould is common in refrigerators and in places with little air circulation such as storage cupboards and shower rooms. These are some of the actions you can ask your employer to consider:

  • Removing visible mould by cleaning with bleach or other mould reduction cleaners.
  • Ensuring adequate natural ventilation, including the use of extractor fans.
  • Sealing leaks in bathrooms and roofs.
  • Clearing overflowing gutters and blocked underfloor vents.
  • Removing indoor pot plants (which promote mould growth).
  • Drying or removing wet carpets.

When hayfever strikes at work

Even with every prevention in place, including taking your medication as advised, hayfever can sometimes get the better of you.

If you have been taking medication and still feel unable to work because of your symptoms, seek advice from a pharmacist or a GP.

References

  1. 1. Smith P, Hellings P, Scadding G et al. Burden Of Allergic Rhinitis In Australia. Internal Med J. [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2019 Aug 28]; 46 (suppl 4): 5–29.
    Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/imj.56_13197.
  2. 2. Tan R, Cvetkovski B, Kritikos V et al. The Burden of Rhinitis and the Impact of Medication Management within the Community Pharmacy Setting [Internet]. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract 2018. [cited 2019 Aug 5].
    Available from:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213219818300552.
  3. 3. Health Direct. Hay Fever Prevention. Aus Govt Dept Health. [Internet] 2019 June [cited 2019 Aug 28]. Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/hay-fever-prevention.

Read next

Evidence-based information about controlling and treating your hayfever