800.285.8525 Contact us

Don’t let allergies make you unsafe at work

Allergies—and some allergy medications—can lead to physical and mental impairment. Follow these eight tips to help you stay safe.

Allergy season is particularly bad this year—and that may be bad news for staying safe at work.  

Allergic reactions to pollen from trees, grass, and other plants can cause symptoms such as sinus congestion, sneezing, runny nose, headache, and itchy nose, throat, and eyes. These symptoms can do more than make you feel uncomfortable. If you’re tired, constantly sneezing, and unable to focus, you may be unsafe at work.  

Unfortunately, some allergy medications can make the situation worse by causing drowsiness. That’s a particular problem if you’re driving or operating machinery. 

“An estimated 55% of workers experience allergic rhinitis symptoms. For most, it’s not a life-threatening experience, but it can really impact productivity and feeling well,” said Liz Hill, SAIF’s Total Worker Health adviser. “Not feeling well can have safety implications.” 

Whether you’re impacted by allergies or allergy medications, you may experience physical and mental challenges, including:  

  • Decreased motor coordination and reaction time 
  • Impaired judgment, thinking, and decision-making  

Allergies can run almost year-round in Oregon, with the peak season for tree allergies in spring, grass allergies in summer, and weed allergies in fall. Follow these eight tips to deal with allergies and their symptoms. 

  1. Always check the label to make sure that an over-the-counter or prescription allergy medication doesn’t cause drowsiness. 
  2. Use a saline sinus rinse.
  3. Drink lots of water.  
  4. Try to stay inside when your symptoms are worst, or the pollen count is severe. Use this national allergy map find the current pollen forecast for your area.  
  5. Wear a mask outdoors. 
  6. Keep car, house, and office windows closed. 
  7. Use air conditioning and, ideally, an air filtration system or high-efficiency filters.  
  8. Shower and wash your hair before bed.   

“While productivity is important, keep in mind that the impact allergies can have on overall well-being through sleep disruption and fatigue, symptoms, and antihistamine use is significant,” said Hill. “Effectively treating allergies and thinking about what can be done in the work environment to relieve symptoms is good for workers and the bottom line.”   

Other SAIF resources 
Integrating health and safety