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UK employees ‘allergic to the office’

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Up to 5.7 million people could be allergic to their office environment, a new study has indicated.

Research conducted by Allergy UK discovered that so-called ‘work fever’ is more common than previously thought – a finding that is sure to concern employers.

Nasal problems, eye conditions, dry throats, breathing difficulties, lethargy, headaches and skin irritations are among the issues reported by staff members.

Some 95 per cent of allergy sufferers said they have experienced one or more of these symptoms in the office, while 27 per cent said their symptoms were worsened by their business environment.

Worryingly, 62 per cent of respondents had experienced itchy or watery eyes, and 27 per cent breathing difficulties over the last year in their office.

Over half the survey sample had experienced an allergic reaction whilst at work.

Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services at Allergy UK, noted that it is difficult for individuals to exercise the same control over their workplace as they would do at home.

“Management of allergies becomes increasingly difficult when in communal spaces, so it’s not surprising that a great deal of allergy sufferers have experienced a reaction at work,” she stated.

So what can employers do to reduce the symptoms experienced by workers in the office?

Improving ventilation, removing carpets, avoiding the use of bookcases and keeping the work environment clean can help alleviate the impacts.

Air purifiers can be used to help remove and reduce allergens such as pollen, house dust mite debris and mould spores.

And plants should be regularly watered and the top soil removed to avoid moulds, or cover with pea shingle.

Workers are also urged to take control of their personal desk environment, keeping it clear and uncluttered to avoid the build-up of dust.