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What Allergens Lurk in Your Office?

Whether you operate your own veterinary practice or a commercial cleaning business, common allergens can wreak havoc on your employees’ productivity. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, workplace allergies — usually occupational asthma — account for 10 percent of all asthma cases in the United States.

Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to remove offending triggers from your workplace and reduce the risk of your workers developing office allergies, making your business a more comfortable place to work.

Prevent the Common Culprits

The most common allergens you’ll need to combat depend on where your business is located and the type of work you do. If you run a veterinary practice or pet grooming business, for example, pet dander will be a trigger, but if you work outdoors, like a landscape or construction company, then pollen would be enemy number one. It is important for small business owners to eliminate these allergens as best as possible because allergies are responsible for reduced productivity and increased absenteeism. In fact, Dr. James Sublett, an asthma and allergy specialist based in Louisville, KY, says allergy symptoms are the second-leading cause of missed work time.

Consider these common allergens and learn how to eliminate them.

Trigger 1: Pollen

An air purifier with HEPA filters is usually the most effective means of removing pollen from a building. Leave windows closed during peak pollen season, and ensure people understand why they should keep them closed. This reduces the levels of pollen and other airborne particles. While they still enter the buildings through doors, the amount is reduced and the filters prevent them from dispersing throughout. It's worth remembering that different types of pollen affect different people, so just because the grass has stopped flowering in your area, it doesn't mean it's safe to open the windows again.

Trigger 2: Dust

Allergies at work can also be caused by reactions to dust, and filters can help with this as well. A good cleaning schedule is also needed, preferably after normal working hours to ensure that anything that's lifted into the air has time to settle before the next day.

Trigger 3: Pet Dander & Hair

You could also use a chemical aid, such as Febreze's allergen reducer. This creates a film on all surfaces to hold down dust and other allergens. However, some people are allergic to this type of product, and it will create layers of dirt and dust that can be kicked up by everyday use, so it's not a cure-all. Pet allergies are slightly harder to control, as people can carry cat or dog fur in on their clothing. It may be best to identify a person who has pets and ensure that they’re placed away from anyone who has an animal allergy to ensure that they don't accidentally set off an allergic reaction.

Trigger 4: Food Allergies

Food allergies have the potential to be much more serious, and anyone with a serious food allergy should undergo a risk assessment. If someone has a severe allergy to peanuts, for example, it may be worth banning all nuts from the building. While this may seem like a drastic step, it reduces the risk of disruption and prevents that employee from getting sick. Most people will understand why if you explain the reasons for such a policy.

Cleaning to Eliminate Allergens

For almost every allergen, cleaning can help reduce or eliminate the problem. Cleaning and vacuuming your office thoroughly might be enough to remove some allergens, but widespread mold and mildew are more expensive to eliminate. For minor problems, such as the accumulation of dust, it will cost just a few dollars to buy cleaning wipes or a feather duster to wipe away the dust and prevent it from causing allergy symptoms. The cost to remove allergens from your office depends on the type of allergen present and the severity of the problem.

For more serious office allergens, like mold, PuroClean Emergency Services estimates a cost of $3,000 to $6,000 for removing the problem, but it can cost more if the area has a lot of water damage or the materials affected are hard to treat. If you work from a home office, keep your windows closed as much as possible. Open windows allow pollen, dust and other allergens to enter your workspace.

Workplace allergens are a serious concern for any business owner, but there are ways to prevent them from affecting your workforce. Cleaning your office regularly and investing in a high-quality air purifier are just two ways you can eliminate some office allergies, helping you to avoid lost productivity and reduce the number of sick days your employees use each year.

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