If the warmer months have you reaching for a tissue, eyebaths and antihistamine tablets, then know you are not alone. More than just an itchy nose, hayfever can hugely impact quality of life. 
 
It is estimated that just over a quarter of us experience the itchy eyes, runny noses and sneezing fits that are characteristics of hayfever, or 'allergic rhinitis' to use its medical term. 
 
If you are an employer, you are probably also feeling the effects of your employees' allergic reaction. While their symptoms cause individual hay fever sufferers discomfort, the effect of the symptoms can also batter your bottom line. 
 
The economic impact of hay fever is significant; a much-shared statistic suggests that reduced productivity due to symptoms costs the UK economy around £324 million annually. 
 
Other studies found that allergy sufferers experience a 40% decrease in productivity when pollen allergy symptoms are at their worst - this is also an effect of presenteeism - turning up for work while you are ill and just not being productive  
 
Or - to put it into real terms - that's the same as losing two full days' work in a week. 
 
Another study by Well Pharmacy showed that one in five hay fever sufferers have taken time off work due to their allergy. The study found that the cold-like symptoms of the condition leave nearly four in ten struggling to perform their job duties effectively. As a result of these debilitating symptoms, 19% of the respondents reported having to call in sick from work. 
 
However, the study also uncovered a concerning trend - a third of those who took time off work due to hayfever admitted to not being completely honest with their employer about the reason for their absence. They believed that their employer would not view hayfever as a valid excuse for taking time off. 

When is hay fever season UK? 

According to the Met Office, hay fever sufferers may experience different levels of exposure to pollen depending on the time of day and the weather conditions. Understanding these peaks can help employees manage their hayfever symptoms more effectively. 
 
Morning peak: Pollen levels are typically higher in the early morning, between 5am and 10am. This is because the air is cooler and calmer, allowing pollen to settle on the ground. If you are particularly sensitive to pollen, it may be best to plan indoor tasks or limit outdoor exposure during this period. 
Afternoon peak: Pollen levels tend to rise again in the late afternoon, between 4pm and 7pm, as temperatures cool down. This is especially true on hot and dry summer days when grass and weed pollen are most prevalent. 
 
Individual triggers: While the general peaks can be helpful guidelines, it's important to remember that individual triggers can vary. Some people may be more sensitive to certain types of pollen, such as tree pollen or ragweed. Identifying your specific triggers can help you navigate pollen season. 

Can you be off work with hay fever? 

Hayfever is a common allergy during the summer months and does not have the same level of employer responsibilities for reasonable adjustments at work in the same was as, say, a nut allergy. 
 
While there is no legal right for employees with allergies to work from home 'just because' they have hayfever, it makes sense for the employee and employer to find a balance to keep wellbeing and productivity high. What might be a suitable solution for one person might not work for another situation. 

Can I work with hay fever? 

If a staff member who is struggling with any aspect of their health, including hayfever, it makes sense for the employee and employer to find a balance to keep wellbeing and productivity high. 
 
What might be a suitable solution for one person might not work for another situation. 
 
If the individual can work from home and they can be more productive there, then it's a reasonable starting point for a conversation. If an employee needs to be in the office or workplace, then a reasonable conversation could include what adjustments might be made to make the employee's life easier. 
A flexible working arrangement for employees with allergies may include allowing employees to work from home on days when their symptoms are particularly severe or granting flexible hours to avoid peak pollen exposure times. 
 
In deciding whether symptoms are serious enough for a staff member to stay at home, employers could ask themselves: Where can the employee best manage their symptoms? Will they be productive if they were to come in? 

What are the symptoms of hay fever? 

Hay fever is associated with troublesome symptoms that can make normal life difficult. These can be severe symptoms that come and go. Some are worse symptoms than others. 
 
Sneezing - Frequent, uncontrollable sneezing is one of the most recognizable symptoms of hay fever. Sneezing fits can be triggered by exposure to pollen. 
Itchy, watery eyes - Hay fever often causes the eyes to become red, itchy, and watery. This is the body's allergic response to pollen irritating the eyes. Some people report a benefit of using wraparound sunglasses to reduce glare and alleviate eye symptoms. 
Runny, stuffy nose - A runny, drippy nose is another hallmark symptom. The nasal passages may also feel blocked or congested. 
Itchy nose, throat, mouth or ears - Hay fever can cause an itchy sensation in the nose, throat, mouth, and even the ears in some cases. 
Coughing - Persistent coughing may occur as a result of postnasal drip from a runny nose or throat irritation from pollen exposure. 
Fatigue - Many hay fever sufferers report feeling extremely tired and lacking energy, especially when symptoms are severe. 
Headaches - Sinus pressure and inflammation from hay fever can lead to headaches and facial pain. 
Loss of smell and taste - Nasal congestion and inflammation can temporarily diminish the senses of smell and taste. 

Managing hay fever symptoms in the workplace 

Office managers and workplace managers can also take proactive measures to minimize the impact of hayfever on their employees' working environment: 
 
Keep it clean: Regularly dust and vacuum the work area to reduce allergens. If possible, use a HEPA filter vacuum for best results. This may also reduce common allergens such as dust mites, pet hair and pet dander if you have a pet-friendly office, 
Use an air purifier: Invest in a high-quality air purifier with a HEPA pollen filter for your office or desk area. This can significantly reduce airborne allergens in your immediate workspace over the summer months and beyond. 
Control humidity: Mold thrives in damp environments, so keep humidity levels between 30-50% using a dehumidifier if necessary. 
Avoid open windows: While it might be tempting to let in some fresh air, keep windows closed during high pollen count days to prevent allergens from entering your workspace. Consider whether air conditioning 
Choose allergy-friendly office plants: If you enjoy having plants in your office, opt for low-pollen varieties like peace lilies or spider plants. Other environmental triggers such as flowers can also cause a reaction to pollen. 
Extra focus to manage symptoms: Understand that the person may need time away from a screen, or more time in the bathroom to manage their hay fever symptoms. A runny nose may also require more runs to get tissues or a cooler place to be. 
Education: Many people don't understand the full impact of hayfever. Share information about the condition to increase awareness and empathy. Be allergy aware! 
Access to medications: For general relief, people could keep allergy medicines and antihistamines in their bag, ready to take. Also make sure you drink plenty of water for overall health. 

Effective treatments for hayfever at work 

Managing your symptoms in pollen season is crucial for maintaining productivity when dealing with hayfever at work. Here are some treatment options to consider: 
 
Antihistamines: These over-the-counter allergy medications can provide relief from most hayfever symptoms. Opt for non-drowsy formulas to avoid affecting your work performance. 
Nasal sprays: Corticosteroid nasal sprays can be highly effective in reducing inflammation and alleviating nasal symptoms. 
Eye drops: For those suffering from itchy, watery eyes, allergy eye drops can provide quick relief. 
Natural remedies: Some people find relief with natural options like nasal irrigation with saline solution or consuming local honey (though scientific evidence for the latter is limited). 
 
Remember to consult with a health professional before starting any new medication regimen, especially if you have other health conditions or take other medications. 

A private GP can offer a greater range hayfever treatments than provided over the counter or on the NHS 

A private GP can offer a greater range hayfever treatments than provided over the counter or on the NHS 

What is Verve On Demand? 

Verve On Demand is a pay-as-you-go private GP, physiotherapy and mental health service where you just pay for the appointments that your people use. No monthly fees and no more paying for a service that your people do not use. 

What are the benefits of a private GP to manage hayfever in the workplace? 

A Verve Healthcare private GP can offer more and different hayfever treatment options compared to that available on the NHS or over-the-counter. This allows for more personalised care tailored to the individual staff member's needs. 
 
Convenience and fast appointments: Private GP services often provide quicker access to appointments compared to other options. This can be especially beneficial during peak allergy seasons when symptoms are severe. 
Personalised care: Private GPs can provide more individualized attention and spend more time discussing symptoms, triggers, and treatment options with patients. 
Access to specialised treatments: Some private clinics offer treatments that may not be readily available through NHS, such as: 
- A deep muscular steroid injection; steroid treatments may rovide relief for the entire hayfever season. 
- Special dose antihistamines: These are not routinely offered as an NHS-funded prescription or from a pharmacist over the counter 
Comprehensive consultations: Private GPs can provide in-depth consultations to assess the severity of symptoms and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan. This advice is also useful for the employee when talking about any potential flexible working or special adjustments at work to help with managing symptoms. 

A win-win situation 

By prioritising employee health and well-being, employers can create a positive work environment that benefits both the company and its staff. 
 
Every employer knows that if they can work with their staff members to promote health and happiness, then they're more productive and it's better all round. We call this a win-win. 
 
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