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Managing Hay Fever in the Workplace

Managing Hay Fever in the Workplace
18 May 2023

With hay fever affecting one in four adults, how can workplace managers ensure sufferers are comfortable at work during the hay fever season?

Hay fever season usually lasts several months starting in March through to September, and with the importance of ventilating indoor space high on the agenda to control viruses and pollutants, FMs should consider how that ventilation may affect hay fever sufferers.

Keeping windows open to allow natural air flow through an indoor space is often the most common solution to keeping a space ventilated.

However airborne allergens caused by pollen from trees and plants can cause unpleasant symptoms such as itching noses and burning eyes. These allergens do not just stay outdoors either: pollen can be carried on hair and clothes indoors.


Air Purification for Hay Fever


Air purifiers can be used in workplaces to trap and destroy the pollutants in indoor spaces whilst circulating clean air back out. HEPA filters can capture 99.95 per cent of particles as small as 0.1 microns, preventing them from leaking back into the air.

Allergens are of course not the only indoor air pollution particles that can affect the workforce’s health - most harmful particles cannot be seen or smelled but can definitely affect both our physical health and cognitive performance. Alongside pollen and other allergens, particles such as bacteria, industrial emissions, chemical emissions, and other ultrafine particles can all be present in a wide range of indoor spaces; and the smaller the particle, the bigger the problem.


Hay Fever and Climate Change


The Met Office says that a changing climate will affect pollen patterns – changes in temperature and rainfall may lengthen the UK pollen season and potentially make pollen concentrations higher.

It’s also possible that changes in climate will lead to changes in the potency of pollen, and one theory suggests that grasses produce more allergic pollen as temperatures increase.

The Met Office also reports that changes in the geographical distribution of allergenic plants, such as ambrosia (common ragweed), could also cause problems.


What Can Facilities Managers do to Help?


If air purification isn’t an option, bosses can keep the windows closed in the early morning and late afternoon when the pollen count is highest. They could also provide a space to hang coats and jackets away from the main working area, as these can carry pollen.

Regular vacuuming is also recommended, preferably with a high-efficiency particle arresting (HEPA) filter in place.

Picture: a photograph of a person working at a laptop, using their arm to shield their mouth and nose after sneezing. Image Credit: Pexels

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 18 May 2023


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