ALLERGIES POSE SAFETY CONCERNS
It’s that time of the year: spring is in full swing and winter is but a memory.
While some people will be planning family picnics, trips to the ballpark and other ways to enjoy the warm weather, about 20% of the US population, or 35 million people, suffer from hay fever or allergic rhinitis. Trees pollinate during early spring and grasses during late spring.
Pollens are difficult to avoid. Individuals who suffer from allergies should avoid outdoor activity during peak pollen times. Trees and grasses pollinate mainly during early morning hours (5-10 AM). Many trees, grasses and weeds have small, light and dry pollens that are easily carried by the wind.
Some of the major outdoor allergens that cause allergic reactions during this time of year are trees such as oak, elm, birch, ash, hickory, poplar, sycamore, maple, cypress, walnut, and western red cedar, as well as grasses.
Since allergies can lead to other chronic conditions such as asthma, they should not be taken lightly.
When allergy season is in full bloom it’s important to educate yourself regarding the use of sedating and non-sedating medications used to treat seasonal allergies. Use of these medications can pose risks to people on the job and behind the wheel.
According to a clinical study by the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, people using non-prescription sedating antihistamines are 50% more likely to have a work-related accident than people who use non-sedating antihistamines and natural remedies. Those individuals who drive or operate heavy machinery need to be particularly careful. Sedating antihistamines can cause drowsiness and decreased driving safety.
It’s not only our safety that’s at risk! Other adverse effects include mood and motivation alterations, diminished performance of tasks and altered cognitive functions. Studies have shown that equivalency rates for sedating antihistamines have been shown to be comparable to a .05 blood alcohol rate.
If you receive a prescription for allergy symptoms, a cold or flu, be sure to ask your health care provider about the medication’s side effects and how they may impact your job performance. You may also ask about drug alternatives that safely manage symptoms without a diminished capacity to do your job safely.