Hay fever symptoms are expected to affect up to 30 million of us by 2030 as urban sprawl, pollution and climate change continue to take their toll on air quality.
Hay fever sufferers often get little sympathy for taking time off work for their symptoms. According to a recent Well Pharmacy study, as many as one in five hay fever sufferers feel the need to take time off work because of their allergy, while one third admit lying to their manager about the cause of their absence.
Hay fever symptoms, which are similar to a common cold, can be persistent and disruptive during pollination season (March to September). Pharmacist Jane Devenish says: "Symptoms can be severe, including headaches, blocked sinuses, shortness of breath, watering red itchy eyes, and even difficulty hearing, which can have a real impact on quality of life."
Is hay fever a disability?
Hay fever is not considered a disability under the Equality Act 2010, except when it aggravates another condition such as asthma, or eczema. This means that employers are not legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments for sufferers.
However, half of the sufferers surveyed for the Well Pharmacy research felt their condition was often underestimated by the people around them. As many as 44% said they were unable to focus at work due to the constant disruption of needing to blow their nose or sneeze. One fifth admitted to feeling more irritable with colleagues during symptom flare-ups.
More than half of respondents said their symptoms left them feeling tired and run-down, while a fifth said they have at times felt too uncomfortable to do anything.
Hay fever reduces productivity
A study conducted by Lloyds Pharmacy in 2014 found that hay fever costs British businesses around £324 million each summer in sick leave and dropped productivity.
While making adjustments for hay fever sufferers in the workplace is not a legal requirement, it is in the employer's best interests to take action. There are a number of simple steps businesses can take to help support sufferers and prevent hay fever from having an impact on the bottom line.
Install air purifying systems
Install an Aeramax® Professional to clean 99.97% of impurities in the air - including pollen. The Aeramax® Professional features a True HEPA filter. This is an EU certified level of 'High Efficiency Particulate Absorption'.
Allow agile working
Doctor and hospital appointments are easier to arrange with the flexibility that comes with agile working. Hay fever sufferers often find their symptoms are worse at certain times of the day. Having the opportunity to work around those times can help minimise disruption to work.
Remove pollinating flowers or plants from the office
While plants and flowers can brighten up work areas, consider removing them or swapping for allergy-friendly species like begonia, cactus, clematis and daffodil, or even artificial versions.
Consider rearranging desks so that hay fever sufferers can work away from windows and doors to minimise their exposure to pollen.
Pollen can stick to fibres so regular cleaning is needed to prevent a build-up. Staff should be aware of their responsibility to keep their desks clean with dusting once a week.
Find out more about how AeraMax® Professional could help with hay fever and other allergies in your workplace: Allergies, Asthma and AeraMax®