Pet allergies within the workplace

After the bedroom the workplace is the environment that most adults spend the greatest part of their days in. Now if allergy sufferers could just choose jobs that provided them with minimal exposure to the allergens that cause them problems life would be great. However this is not usually the case and in the end many allergy sufferers hold jobs that bring them into contact with untold quantities of allergens on a daily basis. A person that sufferers allergies from animal produced allergens will obviously have problems if they are veterinarians, professional pet groomers, jockeys, zoo workers, farmers, animal breeders, circus workers, poultry breeders, livestock workers or are involved in any one of the countless jobs that daily bring a person into direct and repeated contact with animals. There are other less apparent workplace exposures that can occur in schools, hospitals and nursing homes where they pets are often kept (rodents being the most preferred) and therefore have the fore mentioned allergens present. Workplace allergies cause problems not only for employees but also for the employers since these allergies directly affect production. Thankfully there is a way to help alleviate this debilitating problem and help keep both employees and employers happy and productive. The most important factor in the reduction of allergens present is the containment of the source of afore mentioned allergens. The sooner the exposure to animal dander, saliva, and urinary allergens the greater improved will be the control of the resulting symptoms.

The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has these recommendations to help reduce workplace exposure to animal allergens.

  • All workers that must handle animals should wear protective clothing: gloves, laboratory coats, and respirators with face shields.
  • If you handle animals then it is not recommendable to wear street clothes.
  • Your work clothes should remain in your workplace.
  • All animal enclosures and cages should be cleaned regularly;
    protective gear should be worn during the cleaning process.
  • Rather than using hay, straw or sawdust it is better to use corncob bedding or absorbent pads.
  • If you suffer from animal produced allergens then it is better that you work with an animal species or sex that is known to produce less of the offending allergens.
  • The ventilation system should be divided so that the animal handling areas and enclosures are ventilated separately from the rest of the facility.
  • Always take a shower before leaving work and be sure to wash your whole body and your hair thoroughly.
  • Problems in the ventilation system, air conditioning system or heating system can spell trouble. So be sure to have all of these systems checked regularly and repaired if problems present themselves.

Another way that allergy sufferers can diminish their exposure to allergens is by adjusting their work habits or the specific jobs that they perform. Those that need to clean out animal enclosures can do so while the animals are asleep as this guarantees a drop in airborne allergens of about 75 times the amount present when the animals are active. Those allergic to pollens, dust and mold spores so present in straw and hay should try using protective gloves, masks and clothes. They should also thoroughly wash their arms, faces and hands immediately after handling any feed. There are also medications that can help animal care professionals manage their allergies. There are some effective over the counter anti-allergy medications available to those with mild allergies. Any drugs should first be checked with your doctor to make sure that they will not cause more risk on the job.

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