Hay fever: Look out for your workforce
With the warm weather set to return this week, Specsavers Corporate Eyecare discusses the effect hay fever can have on people’s performance at work and the similar symptoms which may be a sign of more serious eye conditions.
Hay fever is a common allergic reaction to pollen from grass, trees and weeds and whilst grass pollen is the most common allergen, mainly affecting people between May and July, weed pollens (June to September) and tree pollens (February to June) can also cause hay fever.
Suffers experience itchy, watery or red eyes, sneezing, blocked or runny nose and itchiness at the back of the throat, nose and ears. For some, the protein found in pollen can cause their eyes to become irritated and inflamed, as well as the throat and sinuses.
Jim Lythgow, Director of Strategic Alliances for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said: “With the pollen count high at present, symptoms such as itchy, sore and streaming eyes will sharply increase for hay fever sufferers. These can be a real distraction when you’re trying to work.”
How to alleviate symptoms
- Monitor pollen forecasts daily. The pollen count is likely to be higher on warmer, dry days and lower on cooler, wet days;
- Limit exposure to pollen by staying indoors on days when pollen counts are high;
- Wraparound glasses or sunglasses can help keep pollen out of the eyes;
- A small amount of barrier balm around the nostrils can help to trap pollen grains and prevent a reaction;
- Consult a GP for advice on antihistamine medication.
Beware of self-misdiagnosing symptoms
Watering, itchy, red or swollen eyes can all be symptoms of common allergies like hay fever. However, many employees may not realise that these symptoms could also be the signs of a potentially serious eye condition.
Dr Nigel Best, Specsavers’ Clinical Spokesperson, says: “Dismissing streaming or puffy eyes as just hay fever is a mistake many people make during the summer months. If employees start to experience discomfort or irritation that doesn’t go away with the help of antihistamines, there’s a chance it could be the sign of an eye infection.”
Irritated, achy and red eyes can also be a sign of iritis, an inflammation of the iris which in some cases can lead to serious complications, if left untreated, including cataracts and glaucoma. It is important to seek the advice of an optometrist as they will be able to provide a proper diagnosis as well as guidance on the correct care and solutions.