Charity Allergy UK has estimated that nearly 5.7 million employees in the UK could be allergic to their workplace.
Research among office workers, primarily those already with allergies, found that 95% had experienced nasal problems, eye conditions, dry throats, breathing difficulties, lethargy, headaches and skin irritations when in the office.
More than a quarter of respondents said their symptoms were exacerbated by their office environment, with nearly two-thirds experiencing itchy or watery eyes and 27% reported breathing difficulties in the previous year.
More than half said that they had also experienced an allergic reaction while at work.
The charity has identified “hotspots” around the office that can have huge implications for allergy sufferers:
- Carpets: nine in 10 reported that their workplace had carpeted floors, which could harbour house dust mites.
- Bookcases: more than half conceded that their office space had open bookshelves. These could attract dust, which is then released into the air.
- Plants: more than one-third said they had plants in the office, which could harbour moulds as well as release spores that can cause allergic reactions.
- Lack of ventilation: just 15% of the poll reported their office to be well ventilated.
Maureen Jenkins, director of clinical services at Allergy UK, said: “It is difficult for individuals to exercise the same control over their workplace as they would do at home.
“Management of allergies becomes increasingly difficult when in communal spaces, so it’s not surprising that a great deal of allergy sufferers have experienced a reaction at work.”