From the desk of Tracie DeFreitas, M.S., Program Leader, Director of Training and Outreach
Spring has sprung, the flowers are blooming, the trees and grass are green, and seasonal allergies are affecting people all over the country. Seasonal allergic rhinitis affects millions of people in the United States. The most common springtime allergies are triggered by allergens such as tree pollen, molds, and grass.
Allergic rhinitis develops when allergens are inhaled and then combine with an allergic antibody called immunolgolbulin E (IgE). When the allergen and the IgE combine in the lining of the nose or eyes, chemicals are released, including histamine. These chemicals cause allergic symptoms such as sneezing, itching, watery eyes, nasal congestion, or headaches. If wheezing and shortness of breath accompany allergy symptoms, it is a signal that the bronchial tubes are affected, leading to asthma.
While most people who are affected by seasonal allergies will experience mild symptoms and limitations, others may be substantially impacted. Allergy symptoms can affect sleep leading to fatigue and difficulty concentrating on the job. Missed work days because of allergies cost U.S. companies millions a year. Why not consider ways of accommodating workers with seasonal allergies to promote productivity during the allergy season?
JAN offers the following accommodation ideas:
- Keep windows and doors closed to keep out pollen.
- Change air filters in air conditioning units frequently.
- Use portable air cleaners with HEPA filters that capture 99.97% of airborne particles, such as pollen, dust, smoke, and pet dander.
- Allow employees to use leave for visits to an allergist or immunologist for immunotherapy.
- Consider modified and flexible scheduling during allergy season so employees with severe allergies can avoid allergens during peak times, such as early morning.
- Consider work from home so employees can avoid allergen exposure.
- If outdoor work is required, allow employees to stay indoors in the morning when pollen levels are highest and perform outdoor duties in the afternoon or evening.
- Allow employees to wear face masks designed to filter out pollen.