Why are allergies so bad right now? If you feel like you’ve been wheezing and sneezing a lot lately, it’s probably because allergy season is back in full force. In fact, according to recent research, allergy season is projected to start earlier and last a lot longer than ever before. This is challenging for anyone, but for people working in the construction industry, it can feel unbearable. Luckily, there are ways you can reduce the severity of your allergy symptoms and get back on the job.
What are allergies?
Allergies, hay fever, or allergic rhinitis, are essentially abnormal immune reactions to harmless substances like dust and pollen. When your body comes into contact with something you are allergic to it mistakes it for something that could hurt you. This leads your cells to release substances to try to block the allergen (like histamines), which can cause excess mucus production and a stuffy nose. Other types of reactions can be more serious like the narrowing of your airways. This is why many people’s allergies present themselves as asthma. Many develop allergies in childhood, but they can also come about in adulthood- particularly after moving to a new environment (like a new part of the country).
Why are allergies so bad right now?
According to experts, there are potentially many reasons why allergy season is getting longer and more severe. Climate change is unfortunately one of the main culprits. As global temperatures rise and more CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere, so too does the amount of pollen in the environment. This is largely because prolific pollen producers like ragweed and wild grasses thrive in warmer temperatures. What’s more, these plants are actually adapting to emit even more allergy-inducing properties. In one study, ragweed responded to excess CO2 in the atmosphere by “producing pollen grains that are covered in more of the spiky surface proteins that the human immune system mistakes as signs of danger.” This means that more people will likely develop allergies and potentially worsening symptoms.
Another allergen getting worse with climate change is mold. If you’re anywhere near California you probably have seen a lot of intense rainstorms this year. This extreme precipitation coupled with warmer weather is a breeding ground for molds. Like pollen, mold spores can be carried through the air outside and cause a lot of problems even if you can’t see where they’re coming from.
Allergies on construction sites
Construction sites are one of the worst places to be for allergy sufferers. Not only do workers have to contend with construction dust, but most construction sites are outdoors- where allergy causing pollen is abundant. Additionally, allergies and some medications used to treat them can make you foggy-brained and drowsy. This is particularly problematic for construction workers who need to be sharp to avoid serious injury from heavy machinery and other workplace hazards.
What can you do about them?
The first line of defense when dealing with seasonal allergies is to stay indoors with air conditioning and an air filter running. However, as you can imagine, this is next to impossible for construction workers. But, there are other ways to deal with your symptoms.
Find the cause of your allergies
You can get allergy tests from your doctor to figure out exactly what is causing your allergy symptoms. Even if you think you know what you are allergic to, you may be surprised at what you find out. Once you know what you’re allergic to you can take the proper steps to avoid them during your day.
Wear a mask
Not only will your dust mask keep out harmful particles found in construction materials, they can also keep allergies at bay. Be sure to use a clean mask every day as pollen can cling to your mask and end up giving you even more allergies.
Wear a hat and sunglasses or safety glasses
Dust and pollen can collect in your hair, eyelashes, and eyebrows. If you are susceptible to outdoor allergies, a hat and glasses can prevent you from getting symptoms. Like with masks, be sure to wear a clean hat every day and wipe off your glasses at the end of the day to eliminate pollen.
Shower when you get home
Pollen particles can also cling to your clothing and prolong your allergies. It is helpful to discard your clothing and immediately shower and wash your hair when you get home from an outdoor worksite.
Take allergy medications
Medications are great, but they can also cause side effects like drowsiness and insomnia. However, if the above steps aren’t working for you, allergy medications can be very beneficial. There are many different kinds of medications for various symptoms. Nasal sprays work well for congestion, eye drops are good for itchy and watery eyes, and oral medications are best for allergy prevention. Talk to your doctor about what kind of medication is best for your specific needs.
Consider immunotherapy/ allergy shots
If your allergies are interfering with your life and work, ask your doctor or allergies specialist about allergy shots. Allergy shots can help your immune system react less aggressively to allergens. Typically, you’ll receive an allergy shot a few times a week and then less as your symptoms improve.
Allergies aren’t just annoying, they can be detrimental for your work and well-being- especially on a construction site. That’s why it is vital to figure out what you’re allergic to and how to keep your symptoms under control. For construction professionals who are often outdoors, this can be daunting. But with the proper steps and diligence, you can get back to normal sooner.
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