Alleviating allergies on the job site

For many, springtime is also sneezing and wheezing time, but pollen is far from the only allergen that can trigger reactions. At a construction site, it can be difficult to escape from common allergens like dust, fresh paint, aerosols and chemical fumes.

In a 2013 article,  available here through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers noted that exposure to allergens represented considerable risk to the health of construction workers, both in terms of respiratory and skin contact. Occupational asthma can be caused by highly reactive chemicals, wood dust, resins and glues, and skin rashes can develop due to irritant contact dermatitis or allergic contact dermatitis (ACD), which dermatologists at Yale describe as a “delayed type hypersensitivity.” ACD is one of the most frequently reported health problems among construction workers.

So, what can you do?

For indoor spaces, allergens can be mitigated with the use of high-efficiency air filters and portable air purifiers. On outdoor job sites, gloves, clothing, masks and goggles can provide a layer of protection. It’s important to remember to wash immediately if your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, and avoid eating in the work area.

If allergens are impacting you, over-the-counter allergy medication might not be your best solution, since antihistamines can affect your ability to focus and make you feel drowsy. There are non-drowsy options that are effective and won’t create added risk on the jobsite. For more information, see this list of allergy medications and their effects, as explained by the Mayo Clinic or consult your physician.

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