Allergen Awareness for Businesses

16 May 2019

Given that we spend so much time at work, making sure that space is comfortable is incredibly important. Efforts spent creating a comfortable workplace are repaid in better productivity, staff happiness, and staff retention.

 

It’s all well and good that the UK recognizes an Allergy Awareness Week at the start of May, but this issue is certainly a year-round one that ought to be monitored closely. This year, the focus is on airborne allergens. Let’s take a look at some of the most common airborne allergens affecting your staff, and how your business can help reduce the issue.

Allergens: the most common

Some of the most common airborne allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Mould
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander
  • Cockroaches (yes — as an airborne allergen!)

Pollen

We’re all for bringing greenery to the workplace. After all, plant life in the workplace is shown to improve productivity, increase focus, and support overall staff happiness. But it’s important to make sure the types of plants you’re bringing into the office aren’t making some people’s life more sniffly and unpleasant.

Succulents, such as cacti, are easy to care for and will work hard to filter the air. Best of all, they don’t expel pollen, so your allergy-suffering employees will be thankful for this choice!

If you would like to add some more colourful flowers to your company’s workplace, consider low-pollen variants such as roses and snapdragons, or any flowers that are grown to be “double petal” or “super double petal” — the extra petals often remove some of a plant’s male stamen, which are the pollen-producing parts of a plant. Alternatively, identify female-only plants, as these will not emit pollen and will actively draw pollen out of the air.

Mould

Speaking of a variety of colours, mould is a plant-life you really don’t want in your office for a whole number of reasons. Green, white, or black, this stuff spells trouble for your allergy-suffering employees, and it can cause a myriad of breathing and skin troubles if left untreated.

Mould thrives with moisture and the right temperature, and it can grow pretty much anywhere. The best way to manage mould in the workplace is to conduct regular walkthroughs of the whole building to inspect any wet or damp areas where mould might grow.

Maintaining air vents and heating systems is also important to help keep mould at bay, as well as keeping humidity levels below 70 per cent.

Dust mites

Dust mites are everywhere, whether you like the idea of tiny spiders eating flakes of dead human skin or not. But that’s not the most uncomfortable thing to know about dust mites: did you know that people with a dust mite allergy are not allergic to the mites themselves, rather, their droppings?

Breathing air where there are dust mite droppings can cause year-round problems for allergy sufferers. They aren’t fond of the cold, but thrive in warm, damp areas with high humidity (over 50 per cent).

Consider removing carpets in your office in favour or laminate or hardwood alternatives to reduce the amount of dust mites present in the space. Like with mould, keeping humidity levels low can go a long way to preventing a dust mite infestation.

Animal dander

If your workplace is operating a pet-friendly policy, great! But be sure to take any staff allergies into consideration. Animal dander gets into the air through loose skin cells from animals, and when breathed in, can cause an allergic reaction.

Designate an area of the office that is pet-free where office dogs should not be allowed in. Keep these areas well-ventilated, as the length of fur isn’t to blame for these reactions, it is the dander that gets into the air.

Cockroaches

Much like dust mites, cockroaches can cause an airborne allergen problem. People can be allergic to cockroaches and their droppings and breathing in air contaminated by dead cockroaches or their dropping can cause a reaction.

If you think you have a cockroach infestation in the office (spotting one is enough to signal this), contact pest control immediately. Not only will these insects cause airborne allergens, they are known to carry diseases. It is best to tackle the problem as soon as possible.

Sources

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw34011

https://www.allergyuk.org/allergyawarenessweek

https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/18306-help-prevent-mold-in-the-workplace

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