Top Allergy Triggers in the Office (and How to Prevent Them)
Simple ways to protect occupants from common irritants
Summer has officially arrived, and with it comes the allergy season. Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020, many ironically experienced a reprieve from common allergies due to mask mandates in public areas, as face masks are very effective in reducing respiratory exposure. However, as more workers return to offices, and as mask mandates soften across the board, more will experience returning allergy symptoms. With this in mind, we review the most common allergy irritants in offices, and outline proactive strategies to protect building occupants and employees.
Dusty shelves aren’t just unsightly. Dust consists of particles that can elicit an immune response when inhaled or touched. In particular, tiny organisms called dust mites can trigger respiratory issues such as asthma, and skin conditions such as eczema. Plant pollen is also another common source, leading to seasonal allergic rhinitis — otherwise known as hay fever. South Florida has many plant varieties that commonly induce allergic responses, as our warm weather allows plants to bloom year-round.
Treatment: Door mats at all entrances are immensely valuable, as they help trap excess particles from entering buildings. At SparkleTeam, our green cleaning tools also effectively remove dust without the need for harsh solutions. We use microfiber cleaning cloths, which feature tightly woven fibers that attract and trap particles. Our HEPA filter vacuums are used on carpets and all other floors, including restrooms. In addition to removing debris and dust, they also remove bacteria and allergens. Hard floors are then mopped with microfiber mops.
Allergic reactions aren’t only caused by inhaled irritants. Substances on desktops, counters, and other surfaces can cause allergic skin reactions as well, such as rashes and hives. Even the type of soap in restrooms can become a factor. In offices, cleaning products are a common source of irritation, as they may include fragrances, preservatives, and harsh anti-bacterial agents.
Treatment: In addition to its beneficial environmental impact, green cleaning products also reduce exposure to potential skin irritants. At SparkleTeam, we use third-party certified green cleaning products that exclude substances potentially harmful to one’s health. Non-irritating hand soaps certified by third-party organizations are also available.
Fumes are irritants that float in the air. Some are visible, such as cigarette smoke, but most remain unseen. These include aerosol sprays, fragrances, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs in particular are released from common items, including air fresheners, paint, office printers, dry-cleaned clothing, cleaning supplies, and even furniture.
Treatment: The best solution for removing harmful fumes is to avoid them in the first place. When sourcing equipment, furniture and supplies, look for items certified by Greenguard, a third party organization that tests and approves products with low VOCs. At SparkleTeam, we on our part use Greenguard-certified cleaning products. This is because many mainstream cleaning products can emit harmful VOCs levels.
Mold and Mildew:
Mold is a type of fungi that grows in damp areas, often appearing slimy or fuzzy. Mildew is a type of mold, which often leaves behind a powdery texture. Mold releases spores that cause respiratory allergy symptoms, including sneezing, runny nose, as well as itchy eyes, nose and throat. In the office, mold commonly pops up around leaks, or in moist areas such as restrooms.
Treatment: Because mold and mildew can be difficult (and very expensive) to remove, preventive cleaning is better than any cure. It is important to look for any potential leaks and treat them quickly. For moisture-prone areas such as restrooms, at SparkleTeam we dry and sanitize surfaces, taking care to use cleaning alternatives like accelerated hydrogen peroxide that destroys mold without releasing noxious fumes. HEPA filters can also trap mold spores, which is why we employ HEPA vacuums to prevent spread.