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How to manage your allergies at work — with tips from someone who doesn’t suffer from regular allergies.

By: Calissa Reid

Recently I had my first serious allergic reaction.  Within hours of using false eyelash glue —a girl’s gotta look good for a night out— I started coughing and my head felt like it weighed 100 pounds.  I couldn’t breathe through my nose and breathing through my mouth was a struggle. I was absolutely terrified.

After a couple of hours and a few doses of allergy medication I was back to normal, but the memory of how I felt in the moment of my allergic reaction lingered.  This was my first time having a serious allergic reaction, but some people experience allergies on the regular.  One in six people in Canada suffer from seasonal allergies, and—it gets even scarier—30,000 Americans visit the ER due to food allergies every single year.


I feel ya Snoopy, I feel ya.

Allergies don’t care if you are at work and you’ve got a big presentation to do; they will flare up when provoked. I’ve had only one serious reaction, so obviously I’m no pro, but I’ve scoured the web for some tips on getting relief from allergies.

Wear a mask to lessen exposure to common allergens.  Depending on your job, you can be exposed to common allergies like chemical fumes, mold and mildew or pet dander.  If something at your job is making you really sick, you should probably look for a new place to work. But if your reactions are sporadic and mild there are things you can do to lessen your chances of a reaction.

  • Make sure that your work area is well ventilated and has proper humidity to minimize mold growth.
  • If dust is your enemy, ask to have your workplace regularly dusted, and you can always wear a mask if you know you’re going to be exposed to something that will cause a reaction.

Look out for your co-workers.  At both of my jobs, there are people with serious food allergies. That may mean that your office makes a commitment to not bring in food with that ingredient, or you just need to be careful with where you eat and wash your dishes.  Remember that there can be serious consequences if someone ingests something they shouldn’t.  If you’re the one with the food allergies, this article has great advice for managing food allergies at the office.  It’s not just food we need to look out for; many people get headaches from fragrance, so it’s a good idea to skip perfume and heavily-fragranced products at the office.

Antihistamines and decongestants are your friends! When it comes to hay fever, many people get used to living with congestion, chronic sinus problems, disrupted sleep and breathing from your mouth.  There are over-the-counter and prescription medications that lessen or eliminate your symptoms.  Antihistamines work by blocking the chemical that causes allergy symptoms and relieve itching and sneezing. Decongestants reduce swelling in the nasal passages, which opens them up and makes it much easier to breathe. Even better, there are non-drowsy medications, which help relieve your symptoms but don’t put you down for the count. If the over-the-counter meds don’t help, talk to your doctor about getting something with a bit more kick—you don’t need to live with this.

My recent reaction has shown me just how awful and debilitating allergies can be. For those of you who suffer on the regular, I feel for you.  While you can’t control how your body reacts to things, you can control what you do before and after the reaction.  And I hope one day that we can put allergies out of work, for good. (See what I did there?)


One Response to “How to manage your allergies at work — with tips from someone who doesn’t suffer from regular allergies.”

  1. Nice article! Allergies tend to get overlooked by the non-allergic. I wish I had known more about my allergies to certain animals before I went ahead and trained to be a Vet Tech. My career was pretty short-lived because I broke out in hives and more from handling my patients. It was a bit of a running joke in my clinic, but it wasn’t actually very funny. It was frustrating.

    Now I also deal with scent-sensitivity, especially to perfumes. Depending on the scent it can result in a full-blown migraine in a short period of time. If you ever write about why certain workplaces are designated as ‘scent free’, this website ( explains it really well.

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