Seasonal Allergies and the Construction Environment

What to Look for This Time of Year & Options to Best Help Yourself

According to an online publication called Everyday Health, construction work is among the eight worst jobs for people with allergies.

Allergies are common chronic health conditions and they’re a problem for one in five Americans. If you have allergies, symptoms like sneezing, headache, and congestion can make you miserable while you work. Then, what do you do if something on the construction site triggers your allergies?

One of the worst risks for builders is remodeling, because it involves tearing down old structures that may fill the air with dust and mold. Construction sites stir up all kinds of dust and irritants and some jobs may intensify allergy symptoms. Construction dust poses health risks because it often contains harmful substances like asbestos, man-made mineral fibers, cement residue, or wood dust that may affect the skin and nasal membranes.

In addition to construction-related triggers for allergies, some causes are seasonal. Pollen is the biggest culprit for allergies in late spring, followed by grass, weeds, and ragweed being among the most common triggers in summer months.

Wearing a good mask is your first defense and key to minimizing your risk of an allergic reaction as a result of construction dust. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you might take an antihistamine and/or decongestant to help you cope. Many people with seasonal allergies self-medicate and know very little about the medications they’re taking and whether they are the most effective treatment option. Like most medications, allergy pills, nasal sprays and eye drops all have side effects that can affect your ability to work safely. Some allergy medications can make you drowsy, while others can make it difficult for you to go to sleep. Both of these side effects can leave you tired at work and make it more dangerous to operate or be around construction equipment.

Here are a few tips for better understanding your allergies so you can safely get relief while at work:

  • Find the root cause – See an allergist and discuss the different environments you work in and what seems to trigger your allergies. Keep in mind irritants like chemicals, latex, and fragrances may also be the cause and have similar symptoms.
  • Reduce the allergens – Use a HEPA filter and/or make an extra effort to minimize dust in your area. Many times this can be done by spraying areas down with water. You should also wear a respirator on jobs with highly irritating environments.
  • Find the right treatment – All allergies are different and the medication that helps a co- worker, may be different than what best helps you. Perhaps an allergy shot is the right route. Either way, if you suffer from allergies, the proper solution should be proactive and discussed with your physician.
  • Communicate – Tell your supervisor about your allergy problems. In many cases, they can help find solutions and put you in work environments that are better for you when possible. When informed, your supervisors and co-workers will likely do their best to help eliminate or reduce the problem.