Are my allergies work-related?

Deborah Davis
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
Something in your physical surroundings may act as an irritant that triggers an allergic reaction or asthmatic symtoms in susceptible workers.  Of course, some professions have a higher risk of possible exposure to allergic or asthmatic triggers than others.  Although there can be plenty of dust in the offices of people in white-collar occupations, dust mites can also annoy warehouse, maintenance and construction workers.  Still, dust can come in many forms:  wood dust may be troublesome to carpenters and woodworkers, and food dust from flour could irk bakers, pastry chefs and pizza makers.  Seasonal pollen allergies can be a real nuisance to those who work outdoors as landscapers, postal carriers or on highway maintenance crews.  Any number of jobs at manufacturing plants or refineries can cause employees to regularly breathe in chemical vapors that may bother nasal and lung passageways.  According to the World Health Organization, workplace exposure to fumes, gases or dust are responsible for 11% of asthma cases worldwide. And some estimates suggest that roughly 20% of new cases of asthma in adults are work related. Compared to your surroundings at home, you have less control over the work environment which includes the ventilation system, the location where you work, how often it gets cleaned, the temperature and humidity and even the materials used on te job. These factors can influence your risk of work-related reactions.

With a little bit of detective work, you might be able to dig up some clues as to whether or not you're allergic to a work environment. Good luck, gumshoe!

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When do my symptoms start and when do they stop?
  • Do my symptoms start in a certain area (do I sneeze incessantly whenever I enter the copier room, for example) or when I am performing a specific job?
  • What are the symptoms like on weekends or on vacation? Bring your observations (but not conclusions) to your doctor.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.